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Coffee, chocolate part of a balanced diet, studies say

Coffee and chocolate—your favorite guilty pleasures—may not be so bad for you.

Two new studies show coffee and milk chocolate increase cardio-vascular and brain function.

In four tests, researchers from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia gave participants milk chocolate, dark chocolate, carob and nothing, then gave them neuropsychological tests to assess memory, attention span, problem solving and reaction time.

"Composite scores for verbal and visual memory were significantly higher for milk chocolate than the other conditions," Dr. Bryan Raudenbush told Reuters Health. Participants’ impulse control and reaction time were better after they ate milk and dark chocolate.

A Norwegian study appears to show that moderate coffee consumption (up to five cups a day) can reduce the risk of cardio-vascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions like diabetes.

Researchers studied data from 27,000 American women and found that women who drank one to three cups of coffee a day reduced their risk of cardio-vascular, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases between 20 and 25 percent.

Coffee accounts for 60 percent of the disease-fighting antioxidants in the typical Norwegian diet, researchers said. They also caution that excessive coffee consumption reverses the positive effects.