Consuming flavonoid-rich tea and chocolate in moderation can be associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a Penn State-led review of 66 published studies on the issue.

Lead-researcher Dr Penny Kris-Etherton, a professor of nutrition at Penn State, commented: “Since tea, without milk or sugar, contains no calories, it’s an ideal way to add antioxidant flavonoids to your diet without increasing your weight. Having a chocolate cookie that also contains fruit and nuts along with the tea, if consumed in moderation, can be a heart healthy snack.”

With co-author Dr Carl L Keen, head of the Department of Nutrition at the University of California, Kris-Etherton notes that the antioxidant effects of the flavonoids in tea and chocolate are one possible explanation for the beneficial health effects seen across the 66 studies. These effects observed in healthy adults included increased plasma antioxidant capacity and reductions in platelet reactivity, both heart risk lowering factors.

“As has been noted by several authors, concern over the fat content of chocolate may be over emphasized since the major form of fat in chocolate, stearic acid, is cholesterol-neutral when it is presented in the diet in moderate amounts,” they say.

There is, however, not currently enough information to advise specifically on recommendations as to the amount of flavonoids it is necessary to consume daily in order to trigger positive effects. “The message that individuals should try to consume a variety of food products that are rich in flavonoids on a daily basis is one that could be defended with today’s information,” they say.

Kris-Etherton warns “no single food will confer immunity from illness,” adding: “It’s important to include a wide variety of plant foods in your diet every day.”

The study, Evidence that the Antioxidant Flavonoids in Tea and Cocoa are Beneficial for Cardiovascular Health, was published in the journal, Current Opinion in Lipidology.