Can chocolate really reduce wrinkles and help the heart?

Our favourite treat is being hyped as being much better for you than we thought

It’s official. Chocolate is good for you. People who eat up to two bars of chocolate a day have a lowered risk of heart disease and stroke, according to new research by Scottish scientists.

But does this mean it is open season for chocoholics?

Ciara Kelly is a GP and a broadcaster. She is keen on a bit of chocolate herself, favouring Lidl's dark chocolate with orange, Cadbury's Golden Crisps and, when they're in season, Maltesers Bunnies.

But, she says, chocolate is “a high-fat, high-sugar food, so other than in moderation, it’s not that good for you.”


Luckily, the new research, appears to be telling us that we can munch our way through two bars a day.

“Cocoa works on your serotonin levels, so it makes you feel good,” says Kelly.

That might explain a lot. Especially for women, who can find themselves turning to their friendly chocolate brand at least once every month.

Cocoa is often described as a super food, so chocolate can work for PMT, says Kelly. “It’s not Lancet-level research, but it is the case that women often crave chocolate before their periods.”

But everything in moderation, she says.

Chocolate is “one of those foods we have a deep love of. Foods that combine sugar and fat have that effect on our brains that make it difficult to say ‘no, I’ve had enough’.”

When she is trying to lose weight, Kelly steers clear of chocolate altogether.

Chocolate aficionados everywhere could still breathe a sigh of relief, though, when the new research revealed that higher chocolate intake (up to 100g) is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events. The average chocolate bar weighs about 45g. You can do the maths.

The maths have particular resonance in Ireland, where we are the second highest consumers of chocolate in the EU. The Swiss pip us to the title. But there are only so many Toblerones anyone can eat.

The beneficial health effects even extend to milk chocolate, which is often considered to be less healthy than cocoa-rich dark chocolate, the research found.

Maybe the Irish love of chocolate is our response to the dreary weather we put up with for most of the year. Solace in sweet serotonin anyone?

Also, unlike soccer, we are good at chocolate.

Irish chocolate brands are sought after worldwide. They are prized for their fine ingredients, especially our exceptionally rich milk. Anyone who has ever bought chocolate outside Ireland will tell you that you will never taste better.

The figures stack up: last year the solidly reliable Dairy Milk bar was fourth in the list of Ireland's top 100 brands. Up one place from last year and licking at the heels of Coca-Cola, Avonmore Milk and Brennan's Bread.

If the new research about chocolate being good for your heart seems too good to be true, how about a guilt-free chocolate, which promises to slow down the emergence of wrinkles and sagging skin? Chocolate with anti-aging properties? Someone dial 999 and tell them Nirvana has been located.

Esthechoc, the brainchild of a former Cambridge University scientist, claims to boost antioxidant levels and increase circulation to prevent lines and keep skin looking youthful and smooth.

Its makers say it can change the underlying skin of a 50-60 year old into that of someone in their 20s or 30s. Please come back to us when we’ve finished the box.

Our top five chocolatey treats

Galaxy Not charting as high as Cadbury's Dairy Milk in the consumer charts, this bar gets our pity vote. Not that it needs it. It still shifts quite a lot of units. We should know.

Kinder Eggs The biggest mover in last year's consumer list. The Kinder brand rose 21 places to 35th. The purists amongst you will quibble about the amount of chocolate you get with this egg-based bundle of joy. But is has a free toy inside. A free toy. We rest our case.

Maltesers Until the new research gave us all a "get out of jail free" card, the marketing department at Maltesers was #winning by convincing us that this chocolatey treat was in fact a diet food. It is isn't it? Anyway last year, the humble Malteser was up 19 places to 36th in Ireland's brand list. As we said #winning.

Bounty A tropical treat. Think big coconuts and scantily-clad bronzed beauties. It also qualifies as one of your "five a day". What's not to like?

Twirl They never used to have this in England, making it the bar of patriots. Two fingers to British colonialism, so to speak. After the Peace Process, Twirls became available in England. It doesn't taste as good there, though.