Eating chocolate may cut stroke risk

October 11, 2011 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News, Women's Health

Eating chocolate may cut stroke risk

According to a new study, if you're a female who loves chocolate you might be protected from stroke.

Researchers studying more than 33,000 Swedish women, aged 49 to 83, found that the more chocolate women said they ate, the lower their risk of stroke. These findings add to a growing body of evidence linking cocoa consumption to heart health.

The researchers used data from a mammography study that included self-reports of how much chocolate women ate in 1997.  Over the next decade, there were 1,549 strokes. The more chocolate women reported eating, the lower the risk for stroke.

Among those with the highest weekly chocolate intake -- more than 45 grams (about 4 squares) -- there were 2.5 strokes per 1,000 women per year. That figure was 7.8 per 1,000 among women who ate the least (less than 8.9 grams per week or less than one square).

Scientists speculate that substances called flavonoids are responsible for chocolate's possible health benefits.

In previous research, flavonoids have been shown to reduce high blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke, and improve other blood factors linked to heart health.

But whether this translates into real-life benefits remains to be proven by more rigorous randomized controlled trials.

While chocolate has health benefits, eating too much of it could be counterproductive. Chocolate should be consumed in moderation as it is high in calories, fat, and sugar. Keep in mind than a half of a 100 gram dark chocolate bar delivers 250 calories, 40 grams of fat and 26 grams of sugar (almost 7 teaspoons worth!).

Choose dark chocolate - at least 70% cocoa solids - since it has more flavonoids than milk chocolate.

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology

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