BBC Focus reveals why chocolate is good for you.

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Slimmers usually cut it from their diets when trying to lose weight, but now experts have revealed that chocolate can actually be good for you.

The sweet stuff can keep you slim, lower your blood pressure and even make you smarter, according to nutritionists and health journals.

Eating dark chocolate is also said to prevent liver damage, stop sunburn, and boost your mood. 

BBC Focus has reported claims that chocolate is good for you for a number of reasons - but only if you eat the dark variety

The claims have been made in BBC Focus’s The Scientific Guide To A Healthier You magazine.

It lists 10 benefits of eating chocolate, from boosting levels of good cholesterol to ensuring your blood vessels stay healthy, according to experts. 

Substances called flavanols in cocoa work like blood pressure-lowering drugs called ACE inhibitors. Flavanols stimulate the body to produce nitrous oxide in the blood, which helps open up blood vessels. 

Researchers found regularly eating cocoa lowered blood pressure. But 1 per cent of people had stomach aches from over-indulging.

Chocolate is said to boost moot, make you smarter and also has a range of health benefits, according to experts and studies

A study in the Journal Of Psychopharmacology found people who had a 42g dark chocolate drink a day felt more content than people who did not.

Dietitian Junee Sangani explains: ‘The improvement in mood that people can get from eating chocolate comes from the release of serotonin and endorphins – the feel-good chemicals – in the brain.’

The beneficial effects of chocolate on blood pressure come from the high flavanol content, and the nitrous oxide which dilates blood vessels. 

High blood pressure in the veins of the liver is thought to be linked with liver damage and chronic liver disease. 

Early research has shown that dark chocolate improves blood flow in the liver.

Cocoa contains polyphenols. Eating chocolate with high polyphenol levels (found in dark chocolate) could improve ‘good’ cholesterol levels, according to nutritionist Gaynor Bussell. 

‘Cocoa consists mainly of stearic acid and oleic acid. Stearic acid is a saturated fat, but doesn’t raise blood cholesterol levels. Oleic acid doesn’t raise it [either]and may even reduce it.’

The claims have been made in BBC Focus 's The Scientific Guide To A Healthier You magazine, which is out now

All the effects of chocolate on the circulatory system (lowering blood pressure, opening up the blood vessels and reducing inflammation) can help keep our hearts healthy and ward off heart disease and strokes. 

A review of studies of more than 114,000 people found that those who ate the most chocolate were 37 per cent less likely to have coronary heart disease.

  

In a study reported in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers examined the relationship between brain performance and chocolate consumption of 2,031 Norwegian people aged between 70 and 74. 

They took a battery of brain-power tests and those who had chocolate had significantly better cognitive performance than those who did not.

People who eat chocolate regularly tend to be thinner, according to a study of more than 1,000 people. 

The researchers, who published their results in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found people who ate chocolate a few times a week were, on average, slimmer than those who only ate it occasionally – even after the other foods in their diet were taken into account.

Researchers found a link between the amount of chocolate eaten per person and the number of Nobel prize winners in a country’s population. 

Switzerland had the highest levels of chocolate consumption and the most Nobel laureates. Everyone in the UK would have to munch through about 2kg of chocolate per year to increase the number of Nobel laureates.

A study published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology found that men who had eaten 70g of dark chocolate a day had healthier blood vessels as a result. 

The dark chocolate appeared to help make arteries more flexible and reduce the stickiness of white blood cells, two factors that would help reduce the risk of them getting clogged up.

Researchers have found that some compounds in cocoa can actually help protect your skin from the Sun. 

A study found that people who ate 20g of dark chocolate per day over 12 weeks could spend double the amount of time in front of a UV lamp before their skin reddened compared with those who had eaten normal chocolate. 

 

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