A new study finds that compared with men who reported eating little-to-no chocolate on a regular basis, those who had the highest weekly consumption of chocolate – about 63 grams per week, or just a little more than 2 ounces – reduced their likelihood of suffering a stroke by 17 percent.
The latest findings, published in the journal Neurology, are drawn from a population of 37,103 Swedish men, whose ages ranged from 45 to 79 at the start of an average follow-up period of about 10 years.
The Neurology study, released in late August, also cites the results of a meta-analysis (piecing together the findings of similar but independent studies) of chocolate consumption and stroke risk in both men and women. That study found that for men and women combined, those who ate the most chocolate drove down their stroke risk by about 19 percent.
The precise mechanism by which chocolate works such charms is not known. Dark chocolate is an especially rich source of flavenoids, the plant-based polyphenols one finds in fruits, vegetables, legumes and wine. These appear to tamp down inflammation throughout the body. But they also reduce the aggregation of platelets, the building blocks of blood clots involved in most strokes and heart attacks. And chocolate appears to improve the cholesterol profiles of those who eat it regularly.
But in addition to being a rich source of flavenoids, chocolate is also a rich source of fat and calories. For those looking to reduce stroke risk, fruits, vegetables and legumes are lower-calorie ways to get the same benefits.