For the study, the researchers analysed data of 1,153 people aged 18-69 years old who were part of the Observation of Cardiovascular Risk in Luxembourg study.

It was found that those who ate 100 g of chocolate a day –  equivalent to a bar –  had reduced insulin resistance and improved liver enzymes. Insulin sensitivity is a well-established risk factor to cardiovascular disease.

The findings were published in the British Journal of Nutrition. The analysis took into account lifestyle and dietary factors, including the simultaneous consumption of tea and coffee. This is because both drinks can be high in polyphenol, the substance which may provide chocolate with its beneficial cardiometabolic effects.

"Given the growing body of evidence, including our own study, cocoa-based products may represent an additional dietary recommendation to improve cardio-metabolic health; however, observational results need to be supported by robust trial evidence," said Saverio Stranges, visiting academic at the University of Warwick Medical School in England.

"Potential applications of this knowledge include recommendations by healthcare professionals to encourage individuals to consume a wide range of phytochemical-rich foods, which can include dark chocolate in moderate amounts,"  Stranges said.

However, it is important to differentiate between the natural product cocoa and the processed product chocolate, which is an energy-dense food. Therefore, physical activity, diet and other lifestyle factors must be carefully balanced to avoid detrimental weight gain over time, the researchers warned.

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