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Eat Chocolate for Health Hey… this is for all our chocolate fans. If you needed an excuse to eat chocolate before, you won't need one now!

Here's why: a new study suggests that eating a small piece of chocolate daily may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

The people in this study ate the equivalent of a 3.5 ounce square of chocolate every day… that's the size of two small chocolate bars. The result was a 39-percent lower risk of heart attack or stroke compared to people who ate much less chocolate. That's just amazing!

The study followed 19-thousand adults for 10 years. The participants received medical checkups when the study began and every two to three years filled out questionnaires about how much and how often they ate chocolate.

By the end of the study, researchers found that people who ate the most chocolate, an average of only a quarter ounce a day, that's less than 2 Hershey's kisses, had a 27-percent lower risk of heart attack.

And they had a 48-percent lower risk of stroke than people who ate the least amount of chocolate, an average of 0.06 ounces a day. That's astounding. Even their blood pressure was lower by comparison.

Researchers say the benefits come from the high flavanol content of cocoa. Flavanols are an antioxidant that seem to increase the amount of nitric oxide produced by cells that line the inner wall of blood vessels.

Nitric oxide is a gas that, once released, causes the smooth muscle cells of the blood vessels to relax and widen; this may contribute to lower blood pressure. Nitric oxide also improves platelet function, making the blood less sticky.

Experts believe previous research along with this latest study show a daily dose of chocolate is healthy for the heart — some thing you chocolate lovers may be tempted to say you knew all along.


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ScienceDaily published an article on May 5, 2010 that described the results from researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered that a compound in dark chocolate may protect the brain after a stroke by increasing cellular signals already known to shield nerve cells from damage.
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The original scientific publication that reported the influence of chocolate ingestion and decreases in cardiovascular disease was published in the European Heart Journal and can be read here.

For an excellent article summarizing the results of the study of chocolate and its influence on the rates of strokes and heart attacks can be read here. There are many other links on that page that provide information about cardiovascular disease and what you can do to reduce your risk.

As with many studies, there are some limitations and issues with interpretations that readers should be made aware of. These issues are highlighted in an editorial refers to the original paper 'Chocolate consumption in relation to blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease in German adults', by B. Buijsse et al., on page 1616.
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