Just two bars of chocolate per week is all it takes, according to some new research out of Sweden, for a woman to bring down her stroke and possibly prevent a stroke. This latest work builds on earlier findings in both men and women, but also provides us with some new information on stroke type and chocolate health benefits.
A team of researchers from Sweden examined 33,372 subjects taking part in a large study who were from 49 to 83 years old, for a period of ten years that ended in 2008.
The participants completed questionnaires about how regularly they ate chocolate along with 95 other foods throughout the previous year. The subjects were broken into 8 categories depending on how much chocolate they ate. The categories ranged from an astonishing "never" to a far more reasonable "3 or more each day."
Throughout the follow-up period, 1,549 strokes took place, and of that number, 1,200 were brought on by clots or another disturbance of the blood vessels. Burst vessels caused another 224, and the reason for the last 125 was not specified. But even after making an adjustment for stroke risk factors, the team saw that chocolate was protective. This may be because it helps to lower blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke.
Stroke protection began at over 45 grams (almost 1.5 ounces) of chocolate a week, the group that ate the largest volume chocolate got the greatest benefit, cutting their stroke risk by 20%. The average intake in this group was almost 2.3 ounces of chocolate per week. And while earlier studies have shown a link between chocolate eating and stroke risk, this project uncovered a small difference in the protection in terms of the type of stroke.
The subjects who consumed the highest volume of chocolate had a greater protection from strokes due to hemorrhage than those brought on by obstructions like blood clots. No one is sure why this difference in protection might be.
Chocolate, besides tasting divine, is loaded with beneficial flavonoids that are a natural part of the cocoa and act as antioxidants once inside the body. They help protect our cells from free radical damage that can be especially troublesome for the cardiovascular system.
An intriguing quirk of nature means chocolate has eight times the antioxidants that are a natural part of strawberries.
Also important, the study used Swedish milk chocolate and this variety has around 30% cocoa solids, while the milk chocolate usually found in the US probably has much less than this amount. Dark chocolate naturally has higher amounts of cocoa and is lower in sugar, lower in fat and has fewer calories as well.
What's more, only 1/3 of the fat in dark chocolate is known to be bad for you.
This is just another bit of research that finds chocolate health benefits, but before you tuck in, make a wise and informed choice in order to get the benefits (without the nasty calories, adding pounds) to your body. Many experts recommend chocolate with a minimum 70% cocoa, based on earlier research that found the higher concentration of cocoa lowers the risk of heart disease and may prevent a stroke.