There is no need to feel guilty the next time you gorge on chocolate, for researchers claim that eating a few squares daily is good for your heart.

An international team, led by McMaster University in Ontario, has carried out two studies and found that eating chocolate every day can protect against strokes and may also lower the risk of death after suffering a stroke.

The first study looked at 45,000 men and women and found that among those who ate a small bar a week the risk of stroke was down by 22 per cent compared with those who ate no chocolate.

The second study found that 1,169 people who ate 50 grams of chocolate once a week were 46 per cent less likely to die following a stroke than people who did not eat chocolate.

Chocolate is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids, which may have a protective effect against stroke, but more research is needed, say the researchers.

“More research is needed to determine whether chocolate truly lowers stroke risk or whether healthier people are simply more likely to eat chocolate than others,” Sarah Sahib, who led the team, was quoted by the media as saying.

Last year, an international study in the U.S. found that chocolate may ease emotional stress.

In the study, the scientists identified reductions in stress hormones and other stress-related biochemical changes in volunteers who rated themselves as highly stressed and ate dark chocolate for two weeks.

“The study provides strong evidence that a daily consumption of 40 grams during a period of around two weeks is sufficient to modify the metabolism of healthy human volunteers,” the scientists had claimed.

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