Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Eating chocolate may reduce risk of strokes in women

Good news! Eating chocolate may reduce risk of strokes in women

By Claire Bloomfield

Last updated at 3:35 PM on 11th October 2011
Observational study: Chocolate consumption was linked with improved heart health and fewer strokes

A sweet tooth isn't necessarily bad for your health - at least not when it comes to chocolate, researchers say.

A study of more than 33,000 Swedish women found that the more chocolate women said they ate, the lower their later risk of stroke.

The results add to a growing body of evidence linking cocoa consumption to heart health.

Research leader Susanna Larsson from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, said previous studies had linked flavonoids in chocolate with a drop in high blood pressure - a risk factor for strokes.

However, she said the latest study did not give people a free pass to gorge on chocolate as it had not yet been proven whether this theoretical benefit translates into real-life benefits. 

'Given the observational design of the study, findings from this study cannot prove that it's chocolate that lowers the risk of stroke,' Dr Larsson said.

While she believes chocolate may boost health, she also warned that eating too much of it could be counterproductive.

'Chocolate should be consumed in moderation as it is high in calories, fat, and sugar,' she said. 

'As dark chocolate contains more cocoa and less sugar than milk chocolate, consumption of dark chocolate would be more beneficial.'

Dr Larsson and her colleagues, whose findings appear in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, tapped into data from a mammography study that included self-reports of how much chocolate women ate in 1997. The women ranged in age from 49 to 83 years.
Over the next decade, there were 1,549 strokes, and the more chocolate women ate, the lower their risk.

Among those with the highest weekly chocolate intake - more than 45 grams - there were 2.5 strokes per 1,000 women per year. 

That figure was 7.8 per 1,000 among women who ate the least (less than 8.9 grams per week).

A stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. People aged over 65 are most at risk.

Nearly 800,000 Americans and 150,000 English suffer a stroke every year, with about a sixth of them dying of it and many more left disabled. 

For those at high risk, doctors recommend medication to lower blood pressure, quitting smoking, exercising more and eating a healthier diet - but so far chocolate isn't on the list.

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