Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: A square of chocolate keeps the doctor away?

Heart Beat

A square of chocolate keeps the doctor away?

Get ready for the onslaught of ads promoting chocolate as a wonder food for the heart: A carefully conducted German trial has shown that eating a small square of dark chocolate a day can reduce blood pressure by a few points in healthy people with above-normal blood pressure. The finding, which was published in the July 4, 2007 Journal of the American Medical Association, joins a handful of others showing an effect of dark chocolate on blood pressure.

Only dark chocolate will do, since it is rich in the antioxidants known as polyphenols. And not much is needed. In this trial, volunteers downed a six-gram chunk of dark chocolate (about one-fifth of an ounce) that delivered just 30 calories a day.

Dark chocolate won't replace blood pressure medicines. But having a small square a day may be a delicious way to help them along.

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