September 5, 2012

Chocolate reduces risk of stroke in men

Men may be able to reduce their risk of having a stroke by about one-sixth, simply by eating one chocolate bar per week.

That’s the appetising conclusion of a large new study from Sweden, the recent studies on the potential heart and vascular benefits of chocolate to look specifically at men.

Researchers at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute followed more than 37,000 men between the ages of 45 and 79 for about 10 years. Compared to those who ate little or no chocolate, men who ate the most—about 2.2 ounces per week—had a 17 per cent lower risk of having a stroke during than time span.

To bolster these findings, the researchers pooled their data with that from four previous studies, including a near-identical 2011 study they conducted in women. Men and women who ate the most chocolate had a 19 per cent lower risk of stroke compared to those who ate the least.

“This was a meaningful reduction in stroke risk, and the results seem to be valid given the high number of patients,” says Jonathan Friedman, MD, a neurosurgeon at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, in Bryan–College Station. The study, in the journal Neurology, adds to the growing evidence that chocolate, or cocoa, has some heart-healthy properties.

Cocoa contains flavonoids, compounds that have been shown to lower blood pressure, increase “good” cholesterol (HDL), and improve the function of arteries. Flavonoids, also may thin the blood and prevent clotting that helps stave off heart attacks and strokes.

The study participants who ate more chocolate tended as a group to be better educated and healthier than their peers. They were less likely to smoke or have high blood pressure, for instance, and they were also less likely to have the heart-rate abnormality, a major risk factor for stroke.

Although the researchers carefully controlled for these and other health measures (such as diet, body mass index, and physical activity), it’s possible that the link between chocolate consumption and strokes can be explained by health or lifestyle differences that went undetected, says Pierre Fayad, MD, a professor of neurological sciences at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in Omaha.

“This association could also be due to the fact that [chocolate eaters] are healthier people,” Fayad says.

And when it comes to chocolate, moderation is key. As Friedman puts it, “Eating five chocolate bars a week might be worse for you in terms of obesity than it is good for you in terms of stroke risk.” 

Source : The Himalayan Times


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