Men could help prevent strokes just by regularly eating chocolate, a new study suggests.
Consuming just a moderate amount of chocolate every week could help reduce the risk of strokes in men by 17% over those who eat none, says the study published today (Wed 29 August) online in the medical journal Neurology, which is published by the American Academy of Neurology.
Author of the study, Susanna C. Larsson, PhD, from Sweden's Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, says, "While other studies have looked at how chocolate may help cardiovascular health, this is the first of its kind study to find that chocolate, may be beneficial for reducing stroke in men."
Researchers asked 37,103 Swedish men aged 49-75 to fill in a food questionnaire assessing how often they ate various foods and drinks and how much chocolate they consumed.
They then used hospital discharge records and discovered that over 10 years, 1,995 people suffered an initial stroke.
Those in the study consuming the most chocolate, about a-third of a cup of chocolate chips (63 grams) every week, had a 17% lower risk of a stroke than those not eating chocolate, or 12 fewer strokes for 100,000 person-years compared to those who ate no chocolate. Person-years is the total that each participant was under observation.
In five other studies featuring 4,260 stroke cases, the risk of stroke for those who ate the most chocolate was 19% lower compared to those who ate none.
For every additional 50 grams of chocolate eaten each week, around a quarter of a cup of chocolate chips, the danger of having a stroke fell around 14%.
Dr. Larsson says, "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 reduce blood pressure.
"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 during our study, is milk chocolate."
The research was backed by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, the Karolinska Institute and the Swedish Research Council/Committee for Infrastructure.
The American Academy of Neurology, which consists of more than 25,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, promotes the highest quality patient-centred neurologic care.
A neurologist is a doctor who has been specially trained to diagnose, treat and manage disorders of the brain and nervous system. These include stroke, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson's disease, migraine and epilepsy.