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Chocolate may lower stroke risk in men

The Vancouver Sun
September 1, 2012

Fancy a choco­late bar? Reg­u­larly in­dulging in the snack may ac­tu­ally help men de­crease their risk of hav­ing a stroke, a Swedish study sug­gests.

Re­searchers writ­ing in the jour­nal Neu­rol­ogy found that of more than 37,000 men fol­lowed for a decade, those who ate the most choco­late — typ­i­cally the equiv­a­lent of one- third of a cup of choco­late chips — had a 17- per- cent lower risk of stroke than men who avoided choco­late.

The study is hardly the first to link choco­late to car­dio­vas­cu­lar ben­e­fits, with sev­eral pre­vi­ous ones sug­gest­ing choco­late fans have lower rates of cer­tain risks for heart dis­ease and stroke, such as high blood pres­sure.

“The ben­e­fi­cial ef­fect of choco­late con­sump­tion on stroke may be re­lated to the flavonoids in choco­late,” wrote

Su­sanna Lars­son, at the Karolin­ska In­sti­tute in Stock­holm, who led the study.

Another study she con­ducted last year found sim­i­lar re­sults for women.

Flavonoids are com­pounds that act as an­tiox­i­dants and may have pos­i­tive ef­fects on blood pres­sure, choles­terol and blood ves­sel func­tion, stud­ies sug­gest.

For the study, 37,000 Swedish men aged 49 to 75 re­ported on their usual in­take of choco­late and other foods. Over the next 10 years, 1,995 men suf­fered a first- time stroke.

Among men in the top 25 per cent for choco­late in­take, the stroke rate was 73 per 100,000 men per year. That com­pared with a rate of 85 per 100,000 among men who ate the least choco­late, the re­searchers say.

Lars­son’s team had in­for­ma­tion on other fac­tors, such as the men’s weight and other diet habits, whether they

smoked and whether they had high blood pres­sure. Even with those fac­tors con­sid­ered, men who ate the most choco­late had a 17- per- cent lower stroke risk.

Other re­searchers, though, noted that none of the stud­ies to date have proved that choco­late is the rea­son for the lower stroke risk.

“It’s very im­por­tant for peo­ple to take the news on choco­late with a grain of salt,” said Richard Lib­man, vice- chair of neu­rol­ogy at the Cush­ing Neu­ro­science In­sti­tute in Man­has­set, N. Y.

Lib­man said the the­ory that flavonoids may have a pos­i­tive im­pact re­mains just a the­ory and that a wide range of much health­ier foods also con­tain flavonoids — such as ap­ples, kale, broc­coli, soy, tea and nuts.

“You can’t start ad­vis­ing peo­ple to eat choco­late based on this. Think of the neg­a­tive ef­fects that could re­sult, like obe­sity and type 2 di­a­betes.”


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