Women who consume small chocolate bars are less prone to strokes, finds study.
Lead author of the study, Susanna Larsson, from Sweden's National Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm chocolate reduces the risk of strokes caused by bleeds in the brain (hemorrhagic strokes) and strokes caused by a cutoff of blood flow through the brain (ischemic strokes).
"Even consuming a relatively small amount of chocolate had quite a large impact on stroke risk," said Larsson.
However, she says, the benefit appeared proportional to the amount of chocolate in the women's diets.
Larsson's two-bar approximation was based on the effects associated with consuming about 66.5 grams, or about 2.33 ounces, weekly.
Researchers reviewed participants' responses to questionnaires about their diet during the last year. They then grouped the women by the frequency of their chocolate consumption, ranging from never to more than three times a day and looked for associations between strokes and the amount of chocolate the women regularly ate.
The researchers found that subjects who ate about two bars of antioxidant-rich Swedish milk chocolate every week had "significantly reduced risk of stroke," compared with those who ate no chocolate, "suggesting that higher intakes are necessary for a potentially protective effect."
But before you run down to the corner store to load up on chocolate bars, be aware of some caveats. First, the Swedish findings don't prove that chocolate protects against strokes; they suggest a link. Second, the findings won't likely translate as well in this country because 90 percent of the chocolate eaten Sweden at the time the study began was Swedish milk chocolate, which contains a higher concentration of antioxidant-rich cocoa solids (about 30 percent) than American chocolate bars.
The study has been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.