Thursday, August 30, 2012

In the News:Chocoholics Rejoice: Milk Chocolate May Reduce Stroke Risk in Men

Study confirms chocolate's benefits extend to men

Chocoholic men, rejoice—new research suggests that consuming chocolate could reduce the risk of stroke in men.

Researchers studied more than 37,000 Swedish men over the course of 10 years. Men who ate more than 2 ounces of chocolate per week had a 17 percent lower chance of having a stroke than men who ate very little or no chocolate. Previous studies have shown that chocolate can reduce the risk of stroke in women, but no research measured whether it reduced the chance of stroke in men.

"The association between chocolate consumption and stroke risk was similar in men and women," according to the report, which was published in the journal Neurology on Wednesday.

Previous research has suggested that chocolate can reduce blood pressure, stimulate brain activity, and even reduce pain associated with migraines. Susanna Larsson, of Stockholm's Karolinska Institute and lead author of the report, writes that chocolate likely reduces the risk of stroke because it contains flavonoids, which have similar properties to antioxidants.

"The flavonoids may reduce the risk of stroke through several biological mechanisms, including antioxidant, anti-platelet, and anti-inflammatory effects as well as by lowering blood pressure, increasing high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and improving endothelial function," she wrote.

According to the study, about 90 percent of all chocolate in Sweden consumed during the study was milk chocolate, so they were unable to determine if dark chocolate reduced the risk of stroke, though dark chocolate has more flavonoids than milk chocolate.

The caffeine in chocolate could potentially play a role as well, she speculates. Coffee consumption has been shown to similarly reduce the risk of stroke, though researchers aren't sure why. But there are likely other components of chocolate that reduce stroke risk more than caffeine.

"The amount of caffeine in chocolate is low and cannot fully explain" the stroke risk reduction, she writes.

Though Thursday's news is good for anyone with a sweet tooth, Larsson warns people not to go overboard.

"Further studies are required to confirm this finding before any recommendations about chocolate consumption can be given. Because chocolate is high in sugar, saturated fat, and calories, it should be consumed in moderation," she writes.

Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report.

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