IT will not be nearly as much fun as eating sweets, but a big study is being launched to see if pills containing the nutrients in dark chocolate can help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
The pills are so packed with nutrients that you would have to eat countless chocolate bars to get the amount being tested in this study, which will enroll 18,000 men and women across the US.
"People eat chocolate because they enjoy it, not because they think it's good for them," said Dr JoAnn Manson of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
The study will be the first large test of cocoa flavanols, which in previous smaller studies improved blood pressure, cholesterol, the body's use of insulin and artery health.
A second part of the study will test multi-vitamins to help prevent cancer. Earlier research suggested this benefit.
The study will be sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and Mars Inc, maker of M&M's and Snickers bars.
Mars has patented a way to extract flavanols from cocoa in high concentration and put them in capsules.
It and some other companies sell cocoa extract capsules, but with less active ingredient.
"You're not going to get these protective flavanols in most of the candy on the market. Cocoa flavanols are often destroyed by the processing," said Dr Manson.
Participants will get dummy pills or two capsules a day of cocoa flavanols for four years, and neither they nor the study leaders will know who is taking what during the study.
The flavanol capsules are coated and have no taste, said Manson, who tried them herself.