Scientists from the Italian Catholic University in Campobasso have established that just under 7 grams (about one quarter of an ounce) of chocolate per day represents the ideal amount for a protective effect against inflammation and cardiovascular disease.
The findings, published in the Journal of Nutrition, focused on the complex mechanism of inflammation which is a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease - including myocardial infarction and stroke.
"We started from the hypothesis that high amounts of antioxidants contained in the cocoa seeds, in particular flavonoids and other kinds of poly-phenols, might have beneficial effects on the inflammatory state," explained Romina di Giuseppe, lead author of the study. "Our results have been absolutely encouraging: people having moderate amounts of dark chocolate regularly have significantly lower levels of C-reactive protein [a marker for inflammation] in their blood. In other words, their inflammatory state is considerably reduced. The 17 percent average reduction observed may appear quite small, but it is enough to decrease the risk of cardio-vascular disease by one-third in women and one-fourth in men. It is undoubtedly a remarkable outcome."
But the amounts of chocolate are critical. "We are talking of a moderate consumption. The best effect is obtained by consuming an average amount of 6.7 grams of chocolate per day, corresponding to a small square of chocolate twice or three times a week. Beyond these amounts the beneficial effect tends to disappear," cautioned di Giuseppe.
And finally, di Giuseppe warned that the beneficial effects were only apparent with dark chocolate. "Previous studies have demonstrated that milk interferes with the absorption of polyphenols. That is why our study considered just the dark chocolate."
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Source: Catholic University