How Much Dark Chocolate Should I Eat to Live Longer?

What experts have to say about dark chocolate and your life expectancy

If you’re a dark chocolate lover, you’re probably well aware of research that suggests it has important health benefits, mostly through improving heart health. After all, who doesn’t want to justify their chocolate addiction, in the name of longevity? But what “dose” of daily chocolate and what kind, is the most healthy?

The Flavanol Factor

The greatest benefit from chocolate comes with the highest concentration of cocoa, which contains flavanols, a form of flavonoid.

Flavanols act as antioxidants, mopping up damaging free radicals that are produced during cell metabolism. They can also reduce resistance to insulin, and make blood vessels more elastic, reducing blood pressure. Since flavanols can be destroyed through processing, some researchers recommend eating less-processed chocolate, and have advocated labeling cocoa products indicating flavanol levels.

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How Much Chocolate to Lengthen Life

Just how much chocolate should you be eating, before its advantages are cancelled out by overindulgence? Suggestions for a concrete number of grams or ounces are hard to come by. A study of nearly 20,000 people, followed over a period of eight years, concluded that those who ate an average of 6 grams (0.2 oz) of chocolate per day, had a 39% lower risk of heart attack or stroke. That’s a very small amount of chocolate, perhaps only half a single square of a typical 100g dark chocolate bar.

Interestingly, this study included dark and milk chocolate.

How Often Should You Eat Chocolate
Other studies have looked primarily at how often you eat chocolate, rather than the amount you consume. A research review involving a total of about 114,000 subjects in Europe, Asia, and North America, found a 37 per cent lower risk in developing cardiovascular disease, a 31 per cent reduction in risk of diabetes, and 29 per cent reduction in risk of stroke, among subjects who ate chocolate the most often (more than twice a week).
This review, from the University of Cambridge, included chocolate from all sources, including chocolate bars, drinks, and snacks, and did not distinguish between dark, or milk, chocolate.

Not Too Much, Not Too Often is Just Right

Despite the beneficial effect of different sources of chocolate in their study, the Cambridge researchers warn against consuming too much of this energy-dense food. More recent studies have found no effect between those who eat chocolate and those who don’t on both mental and physical quality of life markers. That said, eat the amount of chocolate that works for you. Not too much so that you eat more calories than you can burn and not too often where you replace healthy plant-based foods for it. But just enough to fill the need for something sweet and satisfying, so that it doesn’t interfere with your healthy eating habits. It seems a little chocolate goes a long way, in helping you to live longer. But some research shows it doesn’t really matter, so do what works for you.