Eating chocolate and drinking coffee and tea may help you live longer, according to a new study.

To reap the benefits of the treats, however, they must be consumed with zinc supplements - which together activate a compound that slows down ageing.

According to the researchers from the University of Erlangen in Nuremberg and Auburn University in Alabama, the combination can lengthen life by protecting against naturally-occurring “oxidative stress” - a gas that leads to ageing and other illnesses such as cancer, inflammation or degenerative diseases.

To analyse the effects of zinc, known for its benefits in helping the body fight off bacteria and viruses, and antioxidant polyphenols, which are found in chocolate, tea or coffee, the scientists combined the two in lab experiments.

On their own, polyphenols cannot break down oxidative stress, but when combined with zinc, they create a “mega complex” enzyme capable of protecting the body from the damaging waste gas that occurs as a by-product of cells, researchers found.

The resulting compound is similar to the naturally-occurring superoxide dismutase enzyme (SOD), which also destroys the gas and protects the body, according to the research published in the journal Nature Chemistry.