Is chocolate good for you? Here's what the FDA says

FILE-A worker packs chocolates into heart-shaped boxes for Valentine's Day. (Photo by John Blanding/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Valentine’s Day is a time when many like to indulge in chocolate, but the FDA is chiming in on whether or not the decadent food has health benefits and is good for your heart.

And the answer is complicated. 

Discussions of chocolate’s health benefits came up following an FDA response to a request from Swiss chocolate maker Barry Callebaut. The company wanted to use health claims on some of its chocolate products. 

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Barry Callebaut requested that the FDA review a qualified health claim about the relationship between the consumption of cocoa flavanols in high-flavanol cocoa powder and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, the FDA wrote in a letter on Feb. 3.

Although there have been many scientific studies that have tested if chocolate is healthy, the FDA explains in a letter that there is not much evidence to support this claim writing in their response to Barry Callebaut:

"Daily consumption of at least 200mg of cocoa flavanols per serving may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. FDA has determined that the evidence is supportive, but not conclusive, for this claim."

"Diets containing at least 200 mg of cocoa flavanols per day, such as provided by high flavanol cocoa powder, or high flavanol semi-sweet or high flavanol dark chocolate, can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. There is credible scientific evidence supporting this claim, although the evidence is not conclusive. This product contains at least 200 mg cocoa flavanols per serving."

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The FDA says in the letter it plans to use discretion when explaining the health benefits of cocoa flavanols and high flavanol cocoa powder are going to be when used in the labeling of foods containing these ingredients.

"Very limited scientific evidence suggests that consuming cocoa flavanols in high flavanol cocoa powder, which contains at least 4% of naturally conserved cocoa flavanols, may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease," the agency wrote. 

According to the FDA, a health claim only applies to cocoa flavanols in high flavanol cocoa powder and foods that contain high flavanol cocoa powder. The agency shared that this doesn’t apply to regular cocoa powder, foods containing regular cocoa powder, or other food products made from cacao beans, such as chocolate.

The FDA shares in its letter that it is alright to use limited health claims on foods made with cocoa flavanols in high-flavanol cocoa powder as long as the wording on the label is not misleading to consumers.

This story was reported from Washington, D.C.