It is not clear how much chocolate confers health benefits, Franco said. There was no way of telling how much chocolate was eaten by those who consumed the most of it, he explained. However, having chocolate regularly seemed to be important, he said.
These studies compared people who consumed chocolate more than once a week with those who ate it less often, Franco said.
"We still need to clarify the quantity that permits chocolate to prevent heart disease," he said. "Given the amount of sugar and calories in chocolate, we don't think it's going to be a high quantity."
In addition, since the chocolate eaten in these studies could have been dark, milk or even white chocolate, knowing which type is most beneficial is a question -- although Franco suspects dark chocolate will turn out to be the preferred type. "This is something we need to confirm," he said.
The study included consumption of chocolate bars, drinks, biscuits and desserts.
Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, commented that "despite chocolates indulgent reputation, there is growing evidence that cocoa products which contain high levels of flavonoids may have a variety of actions which are potentially beneficial for cardiovascular and metabolic health."
Several recent studies have suggested the flavonoids found in cocoa products have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting effects and may also relax blood vessels, Fonarow said. He added that they may also improve insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk for diabetes.
However, the studies reviewed in this report were observational -- that is, they looked at data based on what people ate. Clinical trials, where chocolate is
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