A small square of dark chocolate daily protects the heart from inflammation and subsequent heart disease, a new study of Italians suggests. Milk chocolate might not do the job.

However, this guilty pleasure has a limit.

Specifically, only 6.7 grams of chocolate per day (or 0.23 ounces) represents the ideal amount, according to results from the Moli-sani Project, one of the largest health studies ever conducted in Europe. For comparison, a standardsized Hershey’s kiss is about 4.5 grams (though it is not made of dark chocolate) and one Hershey’s dark chocolate bar is about 41 grams (so a recommendation might be one of those weekly).

Chronic inflammation of tissues in the circulatory system is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, such as myocardial infarction or stroke. So doctors strive to keep patients’ inflammation under control. One marker for inflammation in the blood is called C-reactive protein.

The researchers found a relationship between dark chocolate intake and levels of this protein in the blood of 4,849 subjects in good health and free of risk factors (such as high cholesterol or blood pressure, and other parameters). The findings are detailed in the the Journal of Nutrition.


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