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More Evidence for Chocolates' Heart Benefits

Researchers from the University of Milan have found that dark chocolate may protect DNA from oxidative damage, reducing the risk of heart disease and arterial hardening.

The study, published in the November issue of the British Journal of Nutrition, included 20 healthy men and women with an average age of 24.

The participants were assigned to follow a healthy, balanced diet for four weeks. Two weeks into the study, the participants were randomly assigned to receive additional white or dark chocolate in their diet.

The researchers found that dark chocolate actually decreased DNA damage by 20% two hours after consumption.

The dark chocolate contained 860 milligrams of polyphenols and 58 milligrams of epicatechin. Polyphenols and epicatechin are strong antioxidants which neutralize destructive free radicals and decrease oxidation damage in the body.

These findings add to a growing body of evidence linking dark chocolate to improved cardiovascular health.

For example, one study published earlier this year in the September 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that dark chocolate lowers a number of inflammatory biomarkers.

The heart health benefits of dark chocolate are believed to be due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

These new findings are prompting chocolate manufacturers to increase the cocoa content in chocolate in order to increase the health benefits.

Be careful, however, because it is easy to eat a little too much chocolate. Due to the high saturated fat content of chocolate, eating more than 1 serving daily (20g, approximately half of a chocolate bar) can easily cancel out any of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

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