New research claims that consuming chocolate can lower the risk of stroke in men.
The Swedish study published on Neurology.com recruited over 37,000 men between the ages of 49 and 75. Each participant was asked to answer a food questionnaire about their diet including how often they ate chocolate. Researchers tracked the participants’ health for 10 years and found that 1,995 of them experienced their first case of stroke.
Study results showed that men who admitted to eating one-third of a cup of chocolate chips a day had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke in comparison to men who did not consume chocolate. For every quarter cup of chocolate eaten, the stroke risk is lowered 14 percent.
"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," said study author Susanna C. Larsson, associate professor in the Division of Nutritional Epidemiology, National Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
Researchers found that flavonols, an antioxidant found in cocoa can help lower blood pressure and even improve cognitive impairment. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), a board similar to the FDA recently gave a positive report on flavonol saturated chocolate. The EFSA may approve a new label explaining its benefits.
"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," Larsson said.
Reports show that Swedish chocolate contains more cocoa solids than North American chocolate products.
Study results found that apples and pears also have antioxidant benefits. The fruits accounted for 6.1 percent of the antioxidants found in the study participants’ diets. Oranges provided 6.2 percent of antioxidants.
Although the findings are exciting for men with a sweet-tooth, scientists stress that chocolate shouldn’t replace healthy eating and exercise.
“It should be consumed in moderation,” researchers said.
“I don’t think the message should be run out and eat chocolate to prevent stroke,” said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “You are better off controlling other known stroke risk factors than eating chocolate.”