A growing body of research is making chocolate the ultimate superdessert. Studies have linked the antioxidants found in dark chocolate to healthier hearts and healthier brains. In one of the latest studies, a daily dose of chocolate in any form shows promise in reducing the risk of stroke for men.
It’s the flavonoids
Chocolate is loaded with antioxidants called flavonoids, which studies have shown may protect against heart disease and help improve memory.
Earlier this year a study was released that used a mathematical model to conclude that for every 10,000 people with metabolic syndrome, eating 100 grams of dark chocolate a day for 10 years would prevent 70 non-fatal and 15 fatal heart attacks and strokes. Metabolic syndrome is a condition that includes high cholesterol, high blood pressure, belly fat and other risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.
Chocolate and stroke prevention
While the earlier study used a mathematical model, researchers in Sweden collected food questionnaire data on more than 37,000 men age 45-79. Over the next 10 years, 1,995 of the participants suffered strokes. In their report on the study published in the journal Neurology, those who reported eating the most chocolate—equivalent to a third of a cup of chocolate chips a week—were 17 percent less likely to have a stroke compared to men who ate the least.
The researchers went a step further and analyzed data from five studies, including their own, and found that 19 percent of both men and women who ate the most chocolate, without specifying whether it was dark or milk chocolate, were least likely to have a stroke. The study took place in Sweden, where about 90% of the chocolate is milk chocolate, which suggests that the stroke prevention benefits could extend beyond dark chocolate.
The stroke prevention qualities of chocolate are tempered with the usual caveats, however. The results could have been skewed because the researchers also found that participants who ate more chocolate tended to be better educated and healthier than those who ate less. People with a healthier lifestyle overall may also let themselves indulge in treats like chocolate more often.
Other flavonoid foods
So, the latest chocolate study is good news for chocolate lovers, but adding chocolate to your diet for stroke prevention adds calories and fat as well. Consider other foods that rival cocoa for flavonoid content, including fruits such as berries, citrus and apples; vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli; nuts, soy, tea and of course, red wine.
There are also many other approaches to reducing stroke risk, including not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. And when it comes to chocolate, moderation, as always, is the key.