Men who eat a moderate amount of chocolate each week may be lowering their risk of having a stroke.
A study published in the August 29 online issue of Neurology showed that men who eat about one-third cup of chocolate chips, or 64 grams of chocolate each week, had a lower risk of stroke compared to men who do not consume any chocolate.
“While other studies have looked at how chocolate may help cardiovascular health, this is the first of its kind of study to find that chocolate may be beneficial for reducing stroke in men,” said the study’s author, Susanna C. Larsson, a researcher at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
The study looked at 37,103 Swedish men ages 49 to 75, who were given a food questionnaire that assessed how often they consumed various foods and drinks and were asked how often they had chocolate.
Researchers then identified stroke cases through a hospital discharge registry. There were 1,995 incidents of first stroke by the Dec. 31, 2008, follow-up date, including 1,511 cases of cerebral infarction, 321 hemorrhagic strokes, and 163 unspecified strokes.
Those eating the highest amount of chocolate had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those who ate no chocolate.
“Cocoa is the key ingredient,” said Kristy Chambers, Ogden Regional Medical Center stroke and chest pain coordinator. “Cocoa contains antioxidant properties (flavonoids) that can suppress oxidation of low-density lipoproteins which can cause cardiovascular disease.”
In addition, Larsson said the antioxidants may decrease blood concentrations of bad cholesterol and reduce blood pressure. She also said caffeine in chocolate may play a role in protecting against stroke.
“Interestingly, dark chocolate has previously been associated with heart health benefits, but about 90 percent of the chocolate intake in Sweden, including what was consumed in our study, is milk chocolate,” Larsson said.
In a larger analysis of five studies that included 4,260 stroke cases, the risk of stroke for people who ate the most chocolate was 19 percent lower compared to non-chocolate eaters. For every increase in chocolate consumption of 50 grams each week, or about a fourth of a cup of chocolate chips, the risk of stroke decreased by about 14 percent.
Chambers said the researchers also found chocolate to be beneficial for women when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease.
“Chocolate has a lot of sugar and fat, so moderation is key,” she said.