Mayans grew cacao trees in their backyards, blending the beans with vanilla, chili pepper, and achiote to make a bitter, spicy drink known as xocoalt. While Mayans enjoyed consuming the beverage as a treat, they also believed the drink fought fatigue. When Europeans were first introduced to chocolate, they used it to treat upset stomachs. More recently, reports have shown that chocolate improves moods. And a new study found that consuming chocolate reduces one’s risk of developing heart disease.
Oscar Franco, from the University of Cambridge, looked at seven previously published studies on the benefits of chocolate consumption. These seven studies included about 100,000 people. Five of the seven studies reported a benefit to eating chocolate and Franco discovered that people who ate the highest amount of chocolate had a 37 percent lower chance of heart disease and 29 percent lessened risk of stroke.
While Franco did not look at why chocolate lovers seemed to have a lowered risk of heart disease, he suspects that chocolate’s antioxidants and anti-inflammatory traits provide extra protection to the heart.
However, researchers did not look at other aspects of the participants lives—so Franco cannot be sure that the lessened risk for cardiac problems was related to chocoholism or not. And don’t go running out for candy bars just yet. Many of the processed chocolate confections contain a lot of fat, sugar, and calories—all known to play a role in heart disease.
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