Eating a lot of chocolate can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, says a study from the University of Cambridge.

Data from seven previous studies involving 114,009 people were analysed and concluded that the risk of falling ill from heart disease or stroke fell by a third among people who ate high levels of chocolate.

Two groups were compared by scientists at the University of Cambridge – one who ate fewer than two bars a week and one group who ate more than two bars per week.

The studies didn’t differentiate between dark or milk chocolate, but included chocolate drinks, desserts and chocolate bars.

But researchers warned that eating too much chocolate would cause other illnesses.

The British Heart Foundation said there were better ways to prevent heart disease.

The study said “the highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37 per cent reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29 per cent reduction in stroke compared with lowest levels”.

Dr Oscar Franco, one of the researchers, said findings were “promising” but more research was needed.

He added that chocolate is known to reduce blood pressure.

He said: "The advice if you don't eat chocolate is not to start eating chocolate.”

He recommended that any chocolate lovers “avoid binge-eating” and to eat “small amounts on a regular basis.”

Victoria Taylor, senior heart health dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Evidence does suggest chocolate might have some heart health benefits but we need to find out why that might be.

"We can't start advising people to eat lots of chocolate based on this research.

"It didn't explore what it is about chocolate that could help and if one particular type of chocolate is better than another.

"If you want to reduce your heart disease risk, there are much better places to start than at the bottom of a box of chocolates."