The study – published in the journal Neurology – examines data from more than 37,000 men to investigate potential links between chocolate consumption and the risk of stroke.
Led by Dr Susanna Larsson, the researchers revealed that consumption of a moderate amount of chocolate every week could be associated with a lower risk of stroke in men: "While other studies have looked at how chocolate may help cardiovascular health, this is the first of its kind study to find that chocolate, may be beneficial for reducing stroke in men," said Larsson, who is with the Karolinska Institute, Sweden.
"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," she added.
Larsson said the beneficial effects on stroke found in her study could be related to flavanoids found in chocolate:
“Flavonoids appear to be protective against cardiovascular disease through antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties,” she said. “It's also possible that flavonoids in chocolate may decrease blood concentrations of bad cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.”
In the new study, Larsson and her colleagues assessed data from 37,103 Swedish men aged between 49 and 75. All participants were given a food questionnaire that assessed how often they consumed various foods and drinks and were asked how often they had chocolate. The team then identified stroke cases through a hospital discharge registry.
Over 10 years, there were 1,995 cases of first stroke, they revealed.
Analysis revealed that men who ate the largest amount of chocolate – which was roughly equal to 63 grams per week – had a lower risk of stroke compared to those who did not consume any chocolate.
Those eating the highest amount of chocolate had a 17% lower risk of stroke, or 12 fewer strokes per 100,000 person-years compared to those who ate no chocolate.
In a further larger analysis of five studies including data from 4,260 stroke cases, the risk of stroke for individuals in the highest category of chocolate consumption was 19% lower compared to non-chocolate consumers.
The team revealed that for every increase in chocolate consumption of 50 grams per week the risk of stroke decreased by roughly 14%.
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31826aacfa
“Chocolate consumption and risk of stroke: A prospective cohort of men and meta-analysis”
Authors: Susanna C. Larsson , Jarmo Virtamo , Alicja Wolk