Oct 11 Tempted by a chocolate bar? Maybe
indulging every so often is not a bad thing -- especially if
it's dark chocolate.
According to a Swedish study in the Journal of the American
College of Cardiology that looked at more than 33,000 women, the
more chocolate the women said they ate, the lower their risk of
The results add to a growing body of evidence linking cocoa
consumption to heart health, but they aren't a free pass to
gorge on chocolate.
"Given the observational design of the study, findings of
this study cannot prove that it's chocolate that lowers the risk
of stroke," said Susanna Larsson from Karolinska Institutet in
Stockholm, in an email to Reuters Health.
While she believes chocolate has health benefits, she also
warned that eating too much of it could be counterproductive.
"Chocolate should be consumed in moderation as it is high in
calories, fat and sugar. As dark chocolate contains more cocoa
and less sugar than milk chocolate, consumption of dark
chocolate would be more beneficial."
Larsson and her colleagues tapped into data from a
mammography study that included self-reports of how much
chocolate women ate in 1997. The women ranged in age from 49 to
Over the next decade, there were 1,549 strokes among the
group. The more chocolate women ate, the lower their risk.
Among those with the highest weekly chocolate intake, more
than 45 grams, there were 2.5 strokes per 1,000 women per year.
That figure was 7.8 per 1,000 among women who at the least, less
than 8.9 grams a week.
Scientists speculate that substances known as flavonoids, in
particular so-called flavanois, may be responsible for
chocolate's apparent impact on health.
According to Larsson, flavonoids have been shown to cut high
blood pressure, a risk factor for strokes, and improve other
blood factors linked to heart health. Whether that theoretical
benefit translates to real-life benefits remains to be proven by
rigorous studies, however.
Nearly 800,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke
every year, with about a sixth of them dying of it and many more
For those at high risk, doctors recommend blood pressure
medicine, quitting smoking, exercising more and eating a
healthier diet -- but so far, chocolate isn't on the list.
(Reporting from New York by Frederik Joelving at Reuters
Health; editing by Elaine Lies)