“If you are not overweight nor have diabetes I would not recommend against eating chocolate,” said Imre Janszky, the physician who led the study at Karolinska Institute in Solna near Stockholm, to the TT news agency.
Smaller quantities grant lower levels of protection, but are still better than abstaining from the sugary treat, according to the study which is published in the September issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine.
The study followed 1,169 patients in Stockholm who had survived heart attacks and asked them questions about their lifestyles and food habits.
Earlier research had established a strong link between cocoa-based confections and lowered blood pressure or improvement in blood flow.
It had also shown that chocolate cuts the rate of heart-related mortality in healthy older men, as well as with post-menopausal women.
The study concludes that the lower the chocolate intake, the lower the protection against heart-related death, and it is the first to demonstrate the connection between chocolate and the health of heart attack patients.
Imre Janszky warns however that confectionery in general is not an elixir as the benefits appeared to only apply to chocolate.
“We did not find any connection at all between the consumption of sweets generally and survival,” he said.
Janszky also points out that the study is small and a lot more research is required to investigate the links. The researchers cautiously conclude that it is the antioxidants and other minerals present in cacao that are the source of the positive health benefits.