Chocolate and risk of stroke

Wouldn’t it be great if your doctor said, “Take two chocolates, and call me in the morning”?

A recent study published reported, “moderate chocolate consumption may lower the risk of stroke.”

In a research study from Sweden (Larsson SC, Vitamo J, and Wolk A. Chocolate consumption and risk of stroke. A prospective cohort of men and meta-analysis. Neurology 2012), researchers surveyed 37,103 men, with over 10-years follow-up, and found that those who had the highest weekly chocolate consumption were less likely than those men who didn’t regularly eat chocolate to suffer a stroke.

Last year, similar findings were seen in a survey of approximately 33,000 Swedish women.

Previous studies of dark chocolate have shown a lowering of serum Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE), comparable to the effect of blood pressure lowering drugs designed to inhibit ACE. Earlier studies of dark chocolate showed that flavonoids in cocoa helped reduce hardening of the arteries by interacting with LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and by reducing blood pressure.

While most studies in the past examined dark chocolate, the recent study from Sweden were consuming milk chocolate, which contains less cocoa (and flavonoids) than does dark chocolate.

This is an observational study and the results do not prove cause-and-effect. They were able to see the benefits of chocolate even after controlling for weight, smoking and presence of high blood pressure.

Bottom line–if you already eat chocolate every now and then, and your waistline is not suffering and you don’t have Diabetes, there’s probably no reason to stop and you might experience a reduced chance of stroke. But adding calories to your diet may not be wise, especially given the high prevalence of Type II Diabetes and obesity in America. Unfortunately, it’s too early to know the precise benefits of chocolate.