Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 00:58 GMT 01:58 UK
Chocolate 'is good for you'
Evidence is growing that chocolate is good for you
Chocolate may be better for your health than tea because it contains more of a chemical that could prevent cancer and heart disease, researchers have said.
The new research measures the amount of catechins - the chemical thought to be behind the benefits - in different types of chocolate.
The substance is also found in tea - leading the researchers to recommend a cup of tea with a chocolate biscuit as one way to help maintain good health.
The researchers, from Holland's National Institute of Public Health and Environment, published their findings in The Lancet medical journal.
Dr Ilja Arts and colleagues examined the chemical compounds in a range of foods and discovered that catechins are found in chocolate.
Up until now tea was thought to contain the largest amount but the new research indicates that dark chocolate has four times as many.
Catechins are believed to protect against heart disease and cancer and so eating products that contain them could have health benefits.
In the UK, where more than £3.5bn is spent on chocolate each year - the research is likely to be welcomed by those with a sweet tooth although dentists may be less pleased.
Tea and biscuits
Dark chocolate had 53.5mg of catechins per 100g, milk chocolate contained 15.9mg per 100g, and the black tea infusion contained only 13.9mg per 100ml.
In a later survey, the researchers found that in a sample of 6250 men and women, tea was the most important source of catechins, accounting for 55% of total intake.
Chocolate contributed to 20% of the total intake of catechins.
The researchers said: "Drinking a cup of tea and eating a chocolate cookie might be not only enjoyable but healthy as well."