Eating (milk) chocolate may lower risk of getting a stroke
New research from the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institutet shows that eating a moderate amount of chocolate each week may be associated with a lower risk of stroke – regardless of the chocolate being dark or light. The findings are based on data from over 37 000 men and are published in the online issue of the scientific journal Neurology.
"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", says study author Dr Susanna Larsson.
For the study, 37,103 Swedish men ages 49 to 75 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 the Swedish national hospital discharge registry. Over 10 years, 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent. An interesting finding in the study was that it didn't seem to matter whether the chocolate was dark or light for it to be beneficial to the health.
"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", says Dr Larsson.
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", says Dr Larsson.
The association between chocolate consumption and stroke could not be explained by already established risk factors for the disease. However, as the current study as only an observational study the researchers can't rule out the possibility of any other factor than the chocolate to be beneficial. The study was supported by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, and the Swedish Research Council amongst others. Neurology is the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Chocolate consumption and risk of stroke: a prospective cohort of men and meta-analysis.
Neurology 2012 Sep;79(12):1223-9