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Chocolate may lower the risk of stroke in men

Hot Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Pieces

 (Esben Emborg)

Chocolate – often touted for aiding heart health – may have another benefit up its sleeve.

Men who eat a moderate amount of chocolate per week can possibly lower their risk of stroke, according to new research published in the journal Neurology.

Study author Susanna Larsson, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, said it was natural to examine chocolate’s effects on stroke, given its other healthy properties.

“Chocolate consumption has been shown to reduce blood pressure, which is a strong risk factor for stroke,” Larsson told FoxNews.com.  “Chocolate also reduces LDL cholesterol, which is also a risk factor for stroke.  So it made sense to look at stroke.”

Larsson and her team conducted a study of over 37,000 Swedish men between the ages of 49 and 75.  Each participant filled out a food questionnaire detailing the different foods and drinks they consumed, as well as discussing how often they ate chocolate.  The scientists then identified how many men suffered from strokes over a 10 year period – recording close to 2,000 cases.

Upon analyzing the questionnaires, the researchers found that the men who consumed the most chocolate – 63 grams or one-third of a cup of chocolate chips – had the lowest risk of stroke compared to the men who did not eat any chocolate.  Overall, the highest chocolate consumers decreased their risk of stroke by 17 percent.

In previous research, dark chocolate has often been hyped for its heart health benefits.  But an interesting aspect of the study revealed that 90 percent of the participants actually ate milk chocolate.  Larsson said that both types of would most likely provide the same benefits, but dark chocolate may still be the better option.

“If you eat dark chocolate, you need to eat only 30 grams instead of 60 grams, so you don’t need as much,” Larsson said.  “Then there’s less of a risk that you gain weight if you consume smaller amounts.

From previous research, the scientists have a few ideas as to why chocolate has such beneficial properties.

“There are possible antioxidant effects because chocolate contains flavanoids,” which have been found to be protective of cardiovascular health, Larsson said.  However, she noted they don’t know exactly why chocolate is so protective against stroke.  “There are several potential mechanisms,” she said.

While the results are encouraging, Larsson doesn’t want people to significantly increase the chocolate consumption.

“I think, it’s too early to give a recommendation about chocolate,” Larsson said.  “People can continue to consume, and if other people start to consume chocolate, they have to reduce the consumption of something else, because too much could lead to overweight or obesity.  So consume in moderation.”

Larsson agreed, however, that the association between chocolate and a lower risk of stroke has been concretely proven.

“We have examined the association in women previously,” Larsson said.  “And we have the same combined results in both men and women.  This was the last study of this relationship, and now it’s in men.  So there’s definitely an association."