A study into 7,841 American men found that those who regularly ate chocolate and sweets lived almost a year longer than those who abstained.
Doctors from the Harvard School of Public Health assessed the subjects' sweet consumption in 1988, when they were, on average, 65, and then tracked them for five years.
"Our attitude towards candy - `if it tastes that good it can't be healthy' - betrays society's puritanical stance towards pleasure," Dr I-Min Lee and Dr Ralph S Paffenbarger Jr write in today's British Medical Journal. "Since it has existed for centuries, we surmised it cannot be totally unhealthy. We decided to investigate whether candy consumption was associated with longevity."
Death rates were found to be lowest among the men who ate sweets one to three times a month, and highest among those who abstained.
The doctors write that their findings reflect the fact thatchocolate contains chemicals known as phenols. These mop up unstable oxidising molecules, known as free radicals, that are linked to a wide range of diseases. They also prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins into a form that clogs up the coronary arteries.
Unfortunately for those planning a chocolate binge the scientists had a warning.
"As with most things in life, moderation [in sweet eating] seems to be paramount."Reuse content