How milk chocolate might cut stroke risk for men

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Milk chocolate might cut stroke risk for men
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Eating dark chocolate has been suggested to have benefits for heart health. But now a Swedish study shows men who consume moderate amounts of milk chocolate weekly appear to have a lower chance of stroke compared to men who don't eat any chocolate.

According to the study authors, the finding is the first to suggest eating milk chocolate might be a healthy addition for men for controlling stroke risk factors.

For the study, researcher Susanna C. Larsson, PhD, with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden and colleagues gave men food questionnaires to assess how often they consumed certain food and drinks including how much chocolate they ate. They then matched the responses with a hospital registry to find out how many of the men had strokes.

The researchers looked at how much chocolate the men consumed each week. Men who ate the most had a 19 percent lower chance of stroke than non-chocolate consumers in a large analysis of 5 studies that included 4,260 stroke cases.

If you’re wondering how chocolate can lower stroke risk, Larsson explains it may be from flavonoids that keep blood from clotting, reduce inflammation and have antioxidant properties.

About 63 grams or 1/3 cup of chocolate chips a week lowered men’s stroke risk. For every 50 gram increase, or about ¼ cup, stroke risk declined by 14%. In the study, men who consume the most chocolate had a 17% lower chance of stroke compared to men who ate no chocolate at all.

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"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," Larsson added in a press release.

Both dark and milk chocolate contain flavonoids, making it entirely possible that consuming either has health benefits. The key is to avoid processed chocolate – or any food – for optimal health. Candy bars for instance are high in sugar and calories, negating any potential health benefits that you might otherwise get from satisfying a craving for sweets.

More studies are needed to understand exactly why milk chocolate seems to have health benefits for cutting stroke risk in men. The flavonoid content of milk chocolate varies, depending on what type you choose.

It’s also important to remember that compared to dark chocolate, milk chocolate has milk fat in it that could have adverse health effects.

Cocoa, found in chocolate is known to have positive heart health benefits and could be responsible for the lower stroke risk found among men who consumed the most chocolate in the Swedish study.

Source:
American Academy of Neurology
August 29, 2012

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