You've been hearing it for a while now: Research indicating chocolate (especially dark chocolate) can help reduce blood pressure, "bad" cholesterol, and plaque buildup on arteries. But no one had ever studied if eating chocolate could help cut back on heart attacks and strokes. Until now...

A new study by England's University of Cambridge analyzed the results from seven earlier studies, involving more than 100 thousand subjects without heart disease. The researchers discovered that, in five of the seven studies, test subjects who ate the most chocolate regularly reduced their risk of heart disease by 37 %, and their risk of stroke by 29 %, compared to those who ate smaller amounts of chocolate less frequently.

There are a few "catches" of course. The authors of the new report, published in this week's British Medical Journal, note that there was no standard amount of chocolate eaten in the different studies. And although dark chocolate is believed to be best for health improvement, the studies did not differenciate between dark and milk chocolate, or whether the chocolate was eaten in candy bars or other forms. The key seems to be eating chocolate regularly, according to the study's authors.

As you've probably guessed by now, the Cambridge researchers are calling for more study, to determine if eating chocolate or some other factor explains the improved health results. They also note that many chocolate products are high in calories, which could cause weight gain, leading to diabetes and other heart-damaging illnessess.

Do you keep your "medical" chocolate hidden from your kids or spouse? Have you had chocolate "prescribed", or at least suggested, by your doctor? Get in on the conversation, either here or on our Facebook page.