Since its first cultivation by the Mesoamerican cultures of Mexico, Central America, and South America 3,000 years ago, chocolate has been a favorite treat. Though it’s been just short of 500 years since the Aztec king Montezuma raised a glass of hot chocolate to Hernan Cortes’s lips, Western medicine has only just begun to explore the medical benefits this tasty snack has to offer.
A study published by the British Medical Journal found that in a best case scenario, those with metabolic syndrome (obesity, high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, etc.) who ate 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate a day over ten years were less likely to have a cardiac event. Specifically, between 65 and 85 cardiac arrests could be avoided for every 10,000 people in the population.
So it looks like the Aztecs were onto something. The metabolites responsible for chocolate’s health benefits (flavonoids) are found in dark chocolate. It was the Europeans who began adding fat and sugar to the concoction, ultimately reducing flavonoids and leading to our favorite guilty pleasure: milk chocolate. Unfortunately, the positive results found in this study are only relevant when consuming dark chocolate, and not the delicious derivative milk chocolate.
Before you begin skipping meals for Snickers bars, the benefits of consuming 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate (a little over 2 Hershey’s chocolate bars) a day should be weighed against the risks this consumption poses to diabetics and those who are overweight.