Small, dark Easter eggs may be good for your heart

Tue Mar 30, 2010 9:44am EDT
 
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Easter eggs may be good for you, but only if you eat small ones made from cocoa-rich dark chocolate, according to the latest in a string of scientific studies to show potential health benefits of chocolate.

German researchers studied more than 19,300 people over a decade and found those who ate the most chocolate -- an average of 7.5 grams a day -- had lower blood pressure and a 39 percent lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke than those who ate the least amount of chocolate -- an average of 1.7 grams a day.

But, the difference between the two groups was just under six grams (6g) of chocolate a day, less than one small square of an average 100g bar, they wrote in a study in the European Heart Journal to be published on Wednesday.

Brian Buijsse of the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Nuthetal, who led the study, said people should not use his work as an excuse to stuff themselves with chocolate.

"Small amounts of chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-dense food, such as snacks, in order to keep body weight stable," he said.

Although they said more work needed to be done to be sure, the researchers think the flavanols in cocoa may be the reason why chocolate seems to be good for blood pressure and heart health -- and since there is more cocoa in dark chocolate, dark chocolate may have a greater effect.

VEGETABLES, WINE AND COCOA

Flavanols are a class of the antioxidant flavonoids that are found in many vegetables, cocoa and red wine.   Continued...

 
<p>Employees at "Patisserie Abidjanaise" wrap chocolate Easter eggs in Abidjan, March 20, 2008. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon</p>