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Chocolate Linked to Lower Risk for Heart Disease

According to a study published in the September 2008 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, consuming moderate amounts of dark chocolate may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.

These results support previous studies that have linked dark chocolate with heart health benefits. These benefits are often attributed to the high levels of antioxidants in dark chocolate as well as its anti-inflammatory properties.

For the study, a group of Italian researchers recruited 4,849 participants with an average age of 52. Of them, 1,317 reported that they had not eaten dark chocolate in the past year and 824 reported that they regularly ate dark chocolate.

The researchers measured the participant's levels of the serum C-reactive protein (CRP) which is a major risk factor for heart disease and an indicator for inflammation. They also gave each participant a food frequency questionnaire to measure dietary habits.

After adjusting for outside variables like age, sex, social status and tobacco use, researchers found that eating dark chocolate reduced levels of CRP by 17 percent. The study also identified that moderate consumption of dark chocolate was associated with a 33 percent decrease in cardiovascular disease among women and a 26 percent decrease among men.

The researchers were quick to note that when the participants consumed more than one serving of dark chocolate (20g) daily, these benefits began to diminish. This is likely because dark chocolate is high in saturated fat, which can raise the risk of cardiovascular disease and therefore cancel out the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of the chocolate.

Since this is an observational study, further research needs to be done to identify the actual mechanism behind these benefits.

In addition to moderate chocolate consumption, regular exercise and maintaining a diet rich in fruits and vegetables are also effective ways to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
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