It’s been put to rest the myth of chocolate being bad for your health. We know it’s good for you, now the question is, how good for you?

A European Union (EU)-funded research group, FLAVIOLA, has been researching that question as part of its study of flavanols, natural compounds found in cocoa beans, tea leaves and various fruits and vegetables.

Research shows eating or drinking foods rich in the compounds can improve the performance of both the circulatory and cardiovascular systems, but the group of scientists want to take the research to the next step — implementation.

Through collaborative and cutting-edge research, FLAVIOLA believes it will lay the foundation for the development of evidence-based dietary recommendations and innovative food products, and the consortium has already taken the first step by presenting its discoveries to its peers.

More than 50 experts met recently in Brussels at the FLAVIOLA International Workshop on Flavanols in Cardiovascular Health to discuss their recent breakthroughs in the field of cocoa flavanol research and the key findings of FLAVIOLA.

The scientist have shed new light on the types and amounts of flavanols in cocoa, as well as the impact of food processing and manufacturing on the flavanol content of certain food products.

FLAVIOLA scientists also announced the compilation of their research into a comprehensive database of the amounts and types of flavanols consumed in 14 countries across the EU to better understand the connection between flavanol consumption and health and disease.

“We now have a strong understanding of flavanols’ cardiovascular and circulatory health benefits and the past few years have seen a number of significant research advances — many of which have been driven by FLAVIOLA scientists,” says Professor Malte Kelm, FLAVIOLA Scientific Director and Professor and Chairman of the Department of Cardiology, Pulmonary Diseases, Vascular Medicine, and Intensive Care Medicine at Heinrich-Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany.

The conference featured presentations on the project’s outcome and its larger implications, and concluded with a panel discussion lead by scientific and medical experts.

Professor Marc Merx, FLAVIOLA coordinator and professor at the Department of Cardiology, Pulmonary Diseases, Vascular Medicine, and Intensive Care Medicine at Heinrich-Heine University, says the project would have been unsuccessful without the European scientists who were brought together by FLAVIOLA.

“By advancing our knowledge of the health benefits, function and delivery of flavanols, FLAVIOLA has the potential to have a far-reaching impact on public health,” he says.