In the latest research to tout the cardiovascular benefits of an already beloved food, Swedish scientists report that eating chocolate seems to lower a woman's risk of stroke.
The study found that Swedish women who had the highest consumption of chocolate, about two candy bars a week, had a 20 percent reduced risk of stroke.
"Cocoa contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and can suppress oxidation of low-density lipoprotein which can cause cardiovascular disease," including stroke, said study author Susanna Larsson, an associate professor in the division of nutritional epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
Chocolate's benefits don't end there, she said, adding that dark chocolate has been found to reduce blood pressure, lower insulin resistance and help keep blood from forming dangerous clots.
But, that doesn't necessarily mean people should start adding chocolate to their daily menu.
"It's important to keep findings like these in context. [They] don't mean that people need to exchange chocolate for broccoli in their diet," said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist and medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan.
While the study found an association between chocolate and reduced stroke risk, it did not prove a cause-and-effect.
The findings are published as research correspondence in the Oct. 18 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The study included more than 33,000 Swedish women between the ages of 49 and 83. None of the women had any history of stroke, heart disease, cancer or diabetes when the study began in 1997.
Larsson said she expects the results would be similar in men. She noted that U.S. chocolate generally contains less cocoa than darker chocolate consumed in Europe, but there should be a benefit from chocolate consumption here, too.