Rejoice, Chocoholics: Men Who Eat Chocolate May Have Lower Stroke Risk

Chocolate contains flavonoids, which have a host of health benefits, including protecting against cardiovascular disease.

Yep, it's good for you. A study linked eating chocolate with a lower stroke risk in men. (Photo: Cultura/Diana Miller/Getty Images)

Aug 29, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

Thank you, science world, for giving us yet another reason to justify eating chocolate: A study found that men who ate a moderate amount of the stuff had a lower risk of stroke.

The study, published online today in the journal Neurology, focused on a group of 37,103 Swedish men ranging in age from 49 to 75 who were part of a cohort study. They were followed for an average of about 10 years and self-reported their chocolate consumption over the past year. In that time, there were 1,995 cases of stroke.

Men who ate the most chocolate per week—the equivalent of about a third of a cup of chocolate chips—had a lower stroke risk compared to those who ate no chocolate. The biggest chocolate eaters had about a 17 percent lower risk of stroke compared to non-chocaholics.

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As part of the study researchers also analyzed five previous studies on the relationship between chocolate and stroke that included 4,260 cases of stroke. Examining that data, they found those who ate the most chocolate had a 19 percent lower stroke risk than those who didn’t eat chocolate. The studies showed similar results for women.

A Cochrane Library study released earlier this month also found links between consuming cocoa products and lower blood pressure.

So, what is it about chocolate that makes it so good for us?

“The beneficial effect of chocolate consumption on stroke may be related to the flavonoids in chocolate,” study co-author Susanna Larsson said in a news release. “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.”

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This study, unlike others, didn’t just link health benefits to dark chocolate. About 90 percent of the chocolate consumed in Sweden is milk chocolate, the authors noted. Not a big chocolate fan? Flavonoids can also be found in some dark, ripe berries, tea and red wine.

But every party has a pooper, and ours is Dr. Richard Libman, vice chair of neurology at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute in New York. He told U.S. News and World Report, "You have to be very careful with these types of observational studies,” since they don’t show cause and effect, only an association. “There is no way to take from this study that chocolate causes a lower risk of stroke.”

If you eat too much of it and gain considerable amounts of weight, he added, you’ll be faced with a whole new set of problems. Even the study authors warned that chocolate should be consumed in moderation. Obviously they've never been face-to-face with a chocolate fountain.

Do you consider chocolate medicinal? Let us know in the comments.

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