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Chocolate as healthy as exercise

Those who would rather eat chocolate than exercise can take heart from new research that suggests one is as good as the other.

Scientists found that small amounts of dark chocolate may improve health in a similar way to exercise.

Epicatechin, a plant compound in chocolate, appeared to stimulate the same muscle response as vigorous activity.

Researchers focused on mitochondria, tiny powerhouses in cells that generate energy.

Dr Moh Malek, from Wayne State University in Detroit, who led the US study on mice, said: "Mitochondria produce energy which is used by the cells in the body. More mitochondria mean more energy is produced the more work can be performed.

"Aerobic exercise is known to increase the number of mitochondria in muscle cells. Our study has found that epicatechin seems to bring about the same response."

The findings were published today in The Journal of Physiology.