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Surprising Benefits of Chocolate on Health

Who wouldn't love this? Some surprising benefits of chocolate on health by eating a little every day was linked with a lower risk for atherosclerosis, along with hospitalizations and early deaths from both heart failure and heart disease.

This sweet bit of research was conducted by a research team who compared the effects of eating chocolate on heart health using more than 1,200 older women.

The subjects completed dietary questionnaires that told how often they ate chocolate, and the subjects also underwent ultrasounds to get images of their carotid arteries. This is the artery that will show signs of thickness, an indication of atherosclerosis, the condition where arteries harden and blood flow is impaired as a result.

The chocolate consumption of the subjects was divided into three groups; less than one serving a week, between one and six servings a week and seven or more servings (everyday chocolate eaters) of chocolate.

A serving was defined as between 25 and 50 grams (0.9 to 1.8 ounces) and having 5-15% of cocoa by weight. Believe it or not, 47.6% of the subjects ate chocolate less than one time a week. A full 35.8% ate chocolate from one to six times each week, and 16.6% ate some chocolate every day of the week.

There were 158 atherosclerosis related events among the subjects who ate chocolate one time a week, but there were 90 events among those who ate chocolate from one to six times, and only 42 even for those who were eating chocolate every day. You see? It IS good for you.

The team did a secondary analysis among those who ate little or from one to six servings of chocolate and found that hospitalizations and deaths were lower among those who ate more chocolate. This group had a reduced rate of ischemic heart disease, heart failure and generally fewer atherosclerotic plaques, the blockages that reduce blood flow.

Experts do know that the cocoa in chocolate is full of flavonoids that have been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. It makes sense as cocoa does come from plants, and would naturally bear some of the same good-for-you substances as the darker fruits or veggies.

It's important to understand that this study did not provide cause-and-effect evidence, still it may be helpful to enjoy a bit of chocolate to prevent disease in those most at risk.

When it comes to chocolate, the milk chocolate that's so popular in the U.S. has lots of fat, a limited amount of beneficial cocoa, and milk that may actually keep your body from absorbing the helpful nutrients. Chocolate in other parts of the world has almost double the cocoa solids of U.S. dark chocolate, and it's this higher cocoa content that's been linked to all the benefits to the heart.

And since chocolate is a pretty calorie dense food, eating too much is going to up the chances you'll pack on some pounds as well. So this is hardly an "eat all you like" type message - rather the experts are calling for people to enjoy the benefits of chocolate on health in moderation as a tasty treat that might just also be good for your heart.

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