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Oct 11, 2011

Chocolate Found to Reduce Stroke Risk

Eating up to two bars of chocolate a week could help protect your heart.

We have all heard rumors that chocolate, in moderation, may help improve heart health. Some chalk it up to the antioxidants and flavanols found in certain types of chocolate, and others suggest that it may be the “good” types of fat in dark chocolate that help reduce our cardiovascular risk. Whatever the cause for this relationship, what most of us really want to know is: Is it too good to be true? Could something that tastes so good actually be good for us, too?

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology has published a report on a study that is helping get to the bottom of this question. Researchers have found that regular chocolate consumption can promote cardiovascular health by protecting women from stroke. Over 33,000 women participated in this study over the course of 10 years, periodically providing detailed information about their health and dietary habits. After analyzing the data, researchers found that the women consuming chocolate on a regular basis were 12–27% less likely to have various types of strokes than their counterparts who did not eat chocolate. Most interesting, the only women seeing significant health benefits with reduced risk for stroke were those consuming the greatest amount of chocolate — about 66 grams per week, or the equivalent of 1–2 bars of chocolate.

This study is one of the largest of its kind to investigate the relationship between chocolate consumption and stroke, helping to confirm what a number of smaller studies have suggested — that chocolate seems to have a protective effect on cardiovascular health. While this study helped show the relationship between chocolate consumption and reduced risk for stroke, other studies have also suggested that moderate chocolate consumption may reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and even insulin resistance. All told, the beneficial effects of chocolate may help provide yet another (very enjoyable) way for us to promote our cardiovascular health and reduce risk for heart disease and stroke.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Are all types of chocolate good for your heart?
  • It is important to note that not all chocolates are created equal! In general, the best chocolates for your heart are ones that are the least processed and contain the greatest levels of flavanols and cocoa powder.

  • How does chocolate improve cardiovascular health?
  • Although the exact relationship is unclear, many suggest that the antioxidants and flavanols found in cocoa and chocolate help resist damage to the heart over time. Furthermore, certain types of “good” fats such as oleic acid, most commonly found in olive oil, may help protect the heart and control cholesterol levels.


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