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By Ruki Sayid
Great news! A sweet tooth isnt necessarily bad for your health as eating chocolate may reduce the long-term risk of stroke, research has shown.
Men who consumed moderate amounts of the cocoa treat each week were less likely to suffer a stroke over a period of 10 years than those who ate none.
The difference was small, but significant.
Study participants who ate the most, equivalent to about one-third of a cup of chocolate chips, or just a little more than a Mars bar, reduced their stroke risk by 17%.
A total of 37,103 Swedish men aged 49 to 75 took part in the study, filling out food questionnaires which asked how often they ate chocolate.
The mens progress was then followed for 10 years, during which researchers recorded 1,995 cases of a first stroke.
Previous studies have shown that chocolate may help prevent diabetes, control blood pressure and protect against heart disease.
Healthy antioxidant plant chemicals called flavonoids are thought to explain the health benefits.
Lead researcher Dr Susanna Larsson, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said: The beneficial effect of chocolate consumption on stroke may be related to the flavonoids in chocolate.
"Flavonoids appear to be protective against cardiovascular disease through antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties.
"Its also possible that flavonoids in chocolate may decrease blood concentrations of bad cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.
Interestingly, dark chocolate has previously been associated with heart health benefits, but about 90% of the chocolate intake in Sweden, including what was consumed in our study, is milk chocolate.
The men who ate the largest quantities consumed a modest 63 grams of chocolate per week. This is about a third of a cup-full of chocolate chips.
Put into context, the 17% risk reduction amounted to 12 fewer strokes per 10,000 participants over 10 years, or 100,000 person years.
The research was followed up by a larger analysis of data from five studies in Europe and the US that included 4,260 stroke cases.
This showed that people eating the most chocolate were 19% less likely to have a stroke than those consuming the least.
For every increase in chocolate consumption of about 50 grams per week, stroke risk decreased by about 14%.
In their paper, reported in the journal Neurology, the scientists said further studies were needed before any recommendations could be given about chocolate consumption but warned that eating too much could be counterproductive.
They added: Because chocolate is high in sugar, saturated fat, and calories, it should be consumed in moderation.