EATING chocolate can reduce the risk of early death by up to ten percent, a mammoth study found.
Women who munched nearly an ounce a day (28 g) had the lowest risk of dying young from any cause, it concluded.
The findings support previous studies suggesting that antioxidants in cocoa beans help repair damaged cells in the body.
Cacao is also known to lower blood pressure and stop fatty build-up in the arteries.
Researchers arrived at their findings by studying the health records of 84,709 postmenopausal women in the United States over a 19-year period.
They found that chocolate eaters were less likely to die from heart disease and some cancers compared to people who never indulge.
Dr. Yangbo Sun of the University of Tennessee said the long-term health effects “remain unclear” since the sugar and fat in chocolate were linked to weight gain.
She said: “But chocolate also contains potentially beneficial components such as antioxidants and flavonoid compounds.
“Our findings suggest that chocolate consumption was associated with a modestly lower risk of death.”