Chocolate-lovers could be cutting their risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke, new research shows.
Previous studies have found that chocolate, particularly of the dark variety, contains compounds which may reduce the inflammation that leads to heart disease.
The sweet treat is also hailed as having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which could be beneficial for health.
In the latest research, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), experts from the University of Cambridge reviewed seven studies on the issue.
Five reported a positive link between higher levels of chocolate consumption and lower risks of several diseases.
People who ate the most chocolate had a 37pc reduced risk of heart disease and a 29pc reduction in stroke compared with those eating the least.
One of the studies also found a 31pc lower risk of diabetes for chocolate-lovers. No significant reduction was found in relation to heart failure.
The research, which covered more than 100,000 people, included milk, dark and white chocolate and examined consumption of chocolate bars, drinks, biscuits and desserts.
High consumption was generally regarded, depending on the study, as eating chocolate products more than once a week or 7.5g daily. However, the authors warned that the results should be interpreted with caution, especially because chocolate is so calorific it can cause weight gain.
Excess weight increases the risk of several diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
While the health benefits of eating chocolate mean more could be done to reduce its fat and sugar content, further studies are needed, the experts said.