A new Swedish study has reaffirmed the super fruit status of chocolate that could reduce incidence of stroke in women.
The study investigated the impact of the antioxidant property of chocolates and found that women who consumed close to two candy bars a week had a 20 per cent reduced risk of stroke.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, add to the constant slew of evidences that have linked the benefits of chocolate consumption to heart health. But is this an excuse to gorge on all and any form of chocolate?
Chocolate should be consumed in moderation as it is high in calories, fat and sugar, said lead researcher Susanna Larsson from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. As dark chocolate contains more cocoa and less sugar than milk chocolate, consumption of dark chocolate would be more beneficial.
A case in point in the new study warns that because Swedish chocolate contains higher concentrations of cocoa compared to the U.S. chocolate, the study results might not translate the healthy benefits of chocolate in women in the U.S.
Larsson noted that flavonoids have been known to lower incidences of high blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke, while also improving other blood factors linked to heart health. She suggested further investigation to prove the theoretical benefits of these flavonoids in real life.
Larsson also said consuming dark chocolate reduced blood pressure, lowered insulin resistance and also aided the anti-clotting properties of blood. Although the study did find an association between chocolate and reduced stroke risk, it did not prove cause and effect.
The findings reflected that overall stroke risk fell 14 per cent with each 50 g (1.8 oz) of chocolate a woman ate each week after accounting for other factors. Cerebral infarction risk fell 12 per cent for those eating the equivalent of about 1.2 chocolate bars or 100 chocolate chips (adjusted relative risk 0.88, 95 per cent confidence interval 0.77 to 0.96).
Hemorrhagic stroke risk dropped 27 per cent per 50 g of weekly consumption (adjusted RR 0.73, 95 per cent CI 0.54 to 0.99), as reported by study authors in a research letter published in the Oct. 18 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Researchers, in the past, have speculated on flavonoids, or flavanols, as the prime ingredient that brings about the heart-healing touch in chocolates.
The study included more than 33,000 Swedish women between the ages of 49 and 83 who did not exhibit any history of stroke, heart disease, cancer or diabetes when the study began in 1997.
Larsson and colleagues investigated data from a mammography study that included self-reports of how much chocolate the women ate in 1997. Larsson reviewed information from the Swedish Hospital Discharge Registry between 1998 and 2008 to document any cases of stroke among the women in her study.
Over the next decade, the investigations noted that there were incidences of 1,549 strokes, but the more chocolate the women in the study group ate, the lower was the risk of stroke.
Other study details note that those with the highest weekly chocolate intake of more than 45 grams had 2.5 strokes per 1,000 women per year. This is in comparison to 7.8 strokes per 1,000 among women who ate less than 8.9 grams per week.
Past investigations do fit with the new findings. Similar studies on the benefits of chocolate compared the amount of antioxidants, per serving, of dark chocolate, cocoa, hot chocolate mix and fruit juices. These studies inferred that both dark chocolate and cocoa had a greater antioxidant capacity and a greater total flavanol, and polyphenol, content than the fruit juices, deeming it healthier.