SWEDISH RESEARCHERS HAVE discovered that eating a moderate amount of chocolate every week may be associated with a lower risk of stroke.
And while the virtues of dark chocolate have been espoused for some time, this new study shows that milk chocolate can also be beneficial.
The findings from the Karolinska Institutet, published in the science journal Neurology and based on data from more than 37,000 men, show that the men who eat the most chocolate are the least likely to suffer from a stroke.
“While other studies have looked at how chocolate may help cardiovascular health, this is the first of its kind to find that chocolate may be beneficial for reducing stroke in men,” said author Dr Susanna Larsson.
For the study, 37,103 Swedish men aged 49 to 75 were given a food questionnaire which included questions about how often they ate chocolate. Over then ten years of the study, there were 1,995 cases of first stroke.
Men in the study who ate the largest amount of chocolate – about 63 grams of chocolate chips per week – had a 17 per cent lower risk of stroke compared to those who did not consume any chocolate.
In a larger meta-analysis of five studies that included 4,260 stroke cases, the risk of stroke for individuals in the highest category of chocolate consumption was 19 per cent lower compared to non-chocolate consumers.
For every increase in chocolate consumption of 50 grams per week, the risk of stroke decreased by about 14 per cent.
Larsson said that one of her most interesting findings was that “it didn’t seem to matter whether the chocolate was dark or light”.
“Dark chocolate has previously been associated with heart health benefits, but about 90 per cent of the chocolate intake in Sweden, including what was consumed during our study, is milk chocolate,” she explained.
It’s all in the flavonoids
The scientists believe that the beneficial effect of chocolate consumption on stroke may be related to the flavonoids in chocolate.
Flavonoids appear to be protective against cardiovascular disease through antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also possible that flavonoids in chocolate may decrease blood concentrations of bad cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
Both the authors of the study and other experts have warned that further research is needed. They also noted the high sugar and fat content of chocolate, adding that it should be consumed in moderation.