Eating a standard chocolate bar every week could lower a man's risk of having a stroke in later life by 17 per cent, according to a study. It suggests that eating even more chocolate could reduce the risks further.
Previous studies have found links between eating moderate amounts of cocoa-rich chocolate and protection against cardiovascular diseases, but the latest study, by Susanna Larsson of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, is the first to search for links between chocolate and the risk of developing stroke.
She looked at food questionnaires given to 37,103 Swedish men aged between 49 and 75, in which participants were asked about how often they ate chocolate over a decade. By looking at hospital records, Larsson was able to correlate the chocolate consumption in these men with cases of strokes.
Larsson writes in the latest edition of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology: "High chocolate consumption was associated with a lower risk of stroke".
Men who ate the most chocolate, a weekly average of 63 grams, had a 17 per cent lower risk of stroke compared with men who ate none. The correlation did not seem to differ depending on different types of stroke.
Larsson corroborated her findings by conducting a meta-analysis of five other studies, containing a total of 4,260 cases of stroke across Europe and the United States. She found the risk of stroke for individuals in the highest category of chocolate consumption was 19 per cent lower compared with non-chocolate eaters.
She said the beneficial effects of chocolate could be due to its chemicals, called flavonoids. In particular, there are types known as epicatechins, catechins (also found in tea) and procyanidins (also found in foods such as grapes, wine, blackberries and apples).