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Alittle bit of what you fancy could be good for the heart, as well as the soul, a study suggests. Research on more than half a million adults found that those who ate chocolate in moderation had a lower risk of heart failure than those who avoided such treats. Scientists found those eating up to three bars monthly had a 13 per cent lower risk of heart failure compared to those who ate none.

Three bars of chocolate a month can reduce chances of heart failure, study finds

Researchers say natural compounds in cocoa called flavonoids boost blood vessel health and help reduce inflammation.But they warned against having too much chocolate, with those indulging daily seeing their risk of heart failure increase by 17 per cent.

The condition affects more than 900,000 adults in the UK, causing breathlessness, chronic coughing, fatigue, and often premature death.

What blood pressure readings mean

  • 90 over 60 (90/60) or less: You may have low blood pressure.
  • More than 90 over 60 (90/60) and less than 120 over 80 (120/80): Your blood pressure reading is ideal and healthy.
  • More than 120 over 80 and less than 140 over 90 (120/80-140/90): You have a normal blood pressure reading but it is a little higher than it should be, and you should try to lower it.
  • 140 over 90 (140/90) or higher (over a number of weeks): You may have high blood pressure (hypertension). Change your lifestyle – see your doctor or nurse and take any medicines they may give you.
  • If your top number is 140 or more – then you may have high blood pressure, regardless of your bottom number.
  • If your bottom number is 90 or more – then you may have high blood pressure, regardless your top number.
  • If your top number is 90 or less – then you may have low blood pressure, regardless of your bottom number.
  • If your bottom number is 60 or less – then you may have low blood pressure, regardless of your top number.

Lead researcher Dr Chayakrit Krittanawong, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, said: “I believe that chocolate is an important dietary source of flavonoids which are associated with reducing inflammation and increasing good cholesterol.

“Most importantly, flavonoids can increase nitric oxide [a gas which expands blood vessels, helping circulation].

“However, chocolate may have high levels of saturated fats. I would say moderate dark chocolate consumption is good for health.”

The study, presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich, looked at five studies involving more than 575,000 individuals. Previous research from Harvard University found eating two to six 30g portions each week cut the risk of atrial fibrillation – one of the biggest causes of strokes – by 23 per cent.

Researchers behind the new study said further trials were needed.Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said cocoa had been linked to a variety of health benefits.

She said: “This large-scale analysis suggests that enjoying a moderate amount of chocolate might protect you against heart failure, but too much can be detrimental.

“If you have a sweet tooth, make it an occasional small treat and go for dark chocolate with the highest cocoa content.”

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