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Chocolate Linked to Lower Stroke Risk

A wide-ranging study including over 33,000 women conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden has found that women who eat chocolate regularly may be at a lower risk for stroke. The study will be published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on October 18, 2011.

The data set for this study was the Swedish Mammography Cohort, a 350 question survey completed by 39,227 women. After excluding women who had already suffered from stroke, heart disease, or diabetes, the researchers were left with 33,372 women between the ages of 49 and 83.

The survey asked how often the women ate chocolate and 95 other foods over the previous 12 months. Using that data, the researchers placed the women into 8 categories based on their level of chocolate intake. The lowest intake was no chocolate at all, while the highest was at least 3 times a day.

The researchers found that women who consumed the highest amount of chocolate—which was an average of 2 chocolate bars per week—were at the lowest risk of stroke. They were 20% less likely to suffer from stroke than women who rarely or never ate chocolate.

The researchers attribute these benefits to the high level of flavonoids in cocoa. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that can suppress oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, which can cause strokes and cardiovascular disease. Dark chocolate has a much higher concentration of cocoa, and can provide the most health benefits.

Chocolate has also been shown to help the cardiovascular system, improve insulin resistance, and reduce blood pressure. To get the health benefits of chocolate, focus on darker chocolates which contain more flavonoids. Flavonoids are known for their antioxidant activity and are the most likely reason for the health benefits of chocolate.

It’s important to keep in mind that excessive consumption of chocolate could negate the positive effects seen here and in other studies, as chocolate also has a high fat, sugar, and calorie content.

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