For chocolate lovers, the evidence is mounting that dark chocolate is one treat that contributes to longevity. Thanks to its apparent effects on the cardiovascular system, chocolate seems to help ward off heart attack, stroke, some forms of cancer, even diabetes. But how much is enough?
In their book Foods That Fight Cancer, cancer researchers from the University of Quebec at Montreal write that consuming about 40 g (just less than 1.5 oz) each day may offer the body enough of the healthy antioxidants - polyphenols in particular - to reap the benefits of this delicious food to help prevent cancer and heart disease. But past research suggests that much less might do you good. In 2010 a German study published in The European Heart Journal found that adults who ate an average of just 6 g (0.2 oz) of chocolate each day (about half a piece) had a 39% lower risk of heart attack or stroke. The conclusions emerged after tracking almost 20,000 people for a period of eight years.
Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2012 did suggest that regular chocolate eaters may be slimmer, even if they're consuming more calories overall. Generally, however, eating more calories (even those contained in so-called "healthy" foods) than you expend each day will put you at risk of obesity, which presents a greater risk of heart disease. So enjoy a daily "dose" in moderation, for your palate, and disease prevention too.
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Brian Buijsse et al. Chocolate consumption in relation to blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease in German adults. Eur Heart Journal 2010;31:1616-23.
Richard Beliveau and Denis Gingras. Foods That Fight Cancer: Preventing Cancer Through Diet McClelland & Stewart. 2005.