Men who eat a bar of chocolate a week could be reducing their risk of stroke in later life, according to a new study in Sweden. Eating a standard chocolate bar (around 63g) was found to lower the risk of stroke by 17 per cent, and there is some evidence that eating more could reduce it further.
But experts have warned that following the results to the letter could be harmful, as chocolate is also high in saturated fat, calories and sugar and it shouldn’t be indulged in too often
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Richard Libman, vice chair of neurology at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute in Manhasset, New York said: “You can't start advising people to eat chocolate based on this. Think of the negative effects that could result, like obesity and type 2 diabetes."
The study looked at questionnaires filled in by 37,103 men aged between 49 and 75. Lead author Susanna Larsson, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, then compared their answers with their hospital records.
Larsson also compared her findings with five other studies across Europe and the US, which also showed a decreased risk of stoke among chocolate eaters.
Experts believe chocolate’s apparent protective abilities could be down to chemicals called flavonoids.
"Cocoa flavonoids can reduce blood stickiness to prevent clot formation,” Catherine Collins, principal dietitian at St George's hospital in London, told the Guardian. “They can also help the arteries to manage changes in blood pressure, by helping dilate arteries to accommodate blood flow better."
And though dark chocolate may be thought of as ‘healthier’, the study showed no difference related to the quality of the chocolate.
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Larson added: “Interestingly, dark chocolate has previously been associated with heart health benefits, but about 90 per cent of the chocolate intake in Sweden, including what was consumed during our study, is milk chocolate."
Collins concluded: "Studies seem to demonstrate a benefit on cardiovascular health with chocolate consumption but, as in this study, other factors such as eating more fruits and veg, smoking less, and a modest intake of alcohol also assist in maintaining cardiovascular health. A little of what you fancy does you good, but in terms of chocolate, choose one with at least 40-50% cocoa solid content if you want to boost your flavonoid intake."