Chocolate has been blamed for many health problems such as obesity, but new research claims eating a small piece every day may actually help people by lowering blood pressure.
Taking around 6g of dark chocolate daily reduces blood pressure without patients gaining weight or suffering any adverse effects, according to a trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers at the University Hospital of Cologne in Germany gave 44 people aged between 56 and 73 6.3g of either dark or white chocolate each day.
All were suffering untreated upper-range prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension, and experts found those given dark chocolate had a slight reduction in their average blood pressure, without changes in weight or cholesterol levels.
The 18-week study also found the amount of hypertension decreased from 86% to 68%.
There was no change in those given white chocolate.
Previous research has indicated that eating large amounts of foods containing cocoa can lower blood pressure.
It is thought that this is due to the action of cocoa polyphenols - the chemical substances found in cocoa which are believed to have health benefits.
The study's authors said: "Although the magnitude of the BP reduction was small, the effects are clinically noteworthy.
"On a population basis, it has been estimated that a 3-mm Hg reduction in systolic BP would reduce the relative risk of stroke mortality by 8%, of coronary artery disease mortality by 5%, and of all-cause mortality by 4%."