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A Good Excuse to Eat Chocolate

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Boston University recently conducted a study that may help you overcome any guilt associated with "indulging" in chocolate.

The study, which was published in the September 2010 issue of the journal Clinical Nutrition, found that frequent chocolate consumption may reduce the risk of heart disease in both men and women.

The researchers analyzed data on nearly 5,000 participants between 25 and 93 years of age for the study. The participants were 45% males and 55% females with an average age of 52. Cardiovascular heart disease risk prevalence was 10.9%.

Chocolate consumption was measured using a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire.

When the researchers compared participants with the highest chocolate consumption (more than 5 times per week) to those that consumed no chocolate they found a 57% decreased risk of cardiovascular disease among the chocolate eaters.

This study did not look into the mechanism behind the relationship but previous studies have linked the cardiovascular benefits of chocolate to compounds in chocolate called flavonols.

Flavonols are the naturally occurring antioxidants found in cocoa, which have been shown to decrease inflammation, protect our DNA from damage and improve heart and brain health by increasing blood flow.

In this particular study, the researchers measured chocolate consumption of all types. However, not all chocolate is created equal. Chocolates with a higher percentage of cocoa, such as dark chocolate, tend to be much healthier.

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