It’s not very often that a dessert food gets profiled front and center in the health news. But that’s exactly what’s happened when it comes to chocolate. Now Swedish researchers are saying that eating chocolate could help lower your risk for having a stroke.
The scientists — a joint team from the Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden, and the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland — set out to investigate the association between chocolate consumption and risk of stroke in men.
They conducted what’s called a “meta-analysis” to summarize available evidence from prospective studies of chocolate consumption and stroke. A meta-analysis is a way for scientists to contrast and combine results from different studies, in the hope of identifying patterns, sources of disagreement, or other interesting relationships that may come to light.
The Swedish research team followed 37,103 men. Chocolate consumption was assessed at baseline using a food-frequency questionnaire. Cases of first stroke were obtained from the Swedish Hospital Discharge Registry.
During 10 years of follow-up, the researchers found there were 1,995 stroke cases, including 1,511 cerebral infarctions, 321 hemorrhagic strokes, and 163 unspecified strokes. As for stroke risk and chocolate consumption, high chocolate intake was associated with a lower risk of stroke. These findings suggest that moderate chocolate consumption may lower the risk of stroke. Reducing your risk for stroke could also help lower your risk of having a heart attack.
It seems official: chocolate is one of a handful of special foods that are good for the heart. How can chocolate be so good for you? Oddly enough, chocolate contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables. Most of these benefits come from flavonoids, which act like antioxidants in your body. That means chocolate flavonoids could potentially protect you from free radicals, which can cause the damage that leads to heart disease. Dark chocolate — the type of chocolate you should reach for at the grocery store — contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly eight times the number found in strawberries).
Now — more good news! Click here to find out how chocolate may help stave off diabetes.