Eating chocolate may lower men's chance of stroke, according to a new study from Sweden.
Researchers surveyed about 37,000 men and asked how much chocolate they ate on a regular basis. Those whose weekly consumption was the highest — at about a third of a cup — were 17 percent less likely to have a stroke than the men who didn't regularly eat chocolate.
Chocolate has been shown to improve cardiovascular health when consumed in moderation, and the beneficial component of the sweet treat is likely compounds called flavonoids, the researchers said.
"Flavonoids appear to be protective against cardiovascular disease through antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties, said study author Susanna Larsson, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. "It's also possible that flavonoids in chocolate may decrease blood concentrations of bad cholesterol, and reduce blood pressure," she said.
The researchers surveyed men between ages 49 and 75, about their dietary habits, and studied hospital records to see how many of the men experienced a stroke over the next 10 years. They found 1,995 cases.
In a separate analysis, the researchers surveyed 4,260 men who had experienced a stroke, and found again that those who ate the most chocolate had a lower risk of stroke than their non-chocolate-eating counterparts — this time by 19 percent.
Additionally, eating an additional quarter cup of chocolate weekly was linked with a 14 percent lower risk of stroke.
The researchers noted that while most studies that have shown the benefits of chocolate emphasized eating dark chocolate, the men were likely consuming milk chocolate, not dark. Milk chocolate contains less cocoa powder than dark chocolate.
"About 90 percent of the chocolate intake in Sweden, including what was consumed during our study, is milk chocolate," Larsson said.
The study was published today (Aug. 29) in Neurology.
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