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Chocolate and Stroke

March 2013 - Eating moderate amounts of chocolate each week may be linked to lower risk of stroke in men, according to a Swedish study published in Neurology journal of the American Academy of Neurology last year.

Author Susanna C. Larsson, PhD, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden said:

"While other studies have looked at how chocolate may help cardiovascular health, this is the first of its kind study to find that chocolate, may be beneficial for reducing stroke in men."

37,103 Swedish men aged 49 to 75 completed a food questionnaire to assess their consumption of various foods and drinks including chocolate. The researchers also identified 1,995 first stroke cases through a 10-year hospital discharge registry. The men who ate the largest amount of chocolate - about 63 grams - had a 17% lower risk of stroke compared to those who did not consume any chocolate.

A larger analysis of five studies including a total of 4,260 stroke cases showed a 19% reduction in the risk of stroke for individuals in the highest category of chocolate consumption compared to those who did not consume chocolate.

Susanna Larsson concluded:

"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. It's 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 percent of the chocolate intake in Sweden, including what was consumed during our study, is milk chocolate."

Depression And Chocolate Consumption

People eat more chocolate when symptoms of depression increase, according to researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. The paper, authored by Beatrice Golomb, Sabrina Koperski and Natalie Rose appeared in the April 26 209 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

According to Beatrice Golomb:

"Our study confirms long-held suspicions that eating chocolate is something that people do when they are feeling down. Because it was a cross sectional study, meaning a slice in time, it did not tell us whether the chocolate decreased or intensified the depression."

The researchers looked at the relationship between chocolate consumption and mood in their study of about 1,000 adult subjects who were not taking antidepressant medications. The subjects had no known cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Participants' mood was measured using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) and they were asked questions about how much chocolate they ate in a week.

Golomb and her colleagues found (for both men and women) that:

  • Subjects with higher depression scores consumed almost 12 servings of chocolate per month
  • People with lesser depression scores averaged about eight servings of chocolate per month, and
  • Subjects with no depression had five servings per month

The researchers did not distinguish between dark and milk chocolate. They classified a medium serving of chocolate as one ounce - slightly less than an average bar of chocolate.

Beatrice Golomb commented:

"The findings did not appear to be explained by a general increase in caffeine, fat, carbohydrate or energy intake, suggesting that our findings are specific to chocolate."

The researchers found no difference in the consumption of other antioxidant-rich foods, such as fish, coffee, fruits and vegetables between tsubjects with depression and those without.

Beatrice Golomb added that the basis of this association, as well as the role of chocolate in depression, as cause or cure, needs further investigation.

Chocolate May Not Be Addictive

A study by Professor Peter Rogers of Bristol University published in 2007 argues that, while people readily admit to being "chocoholics", chocolate is not truly addictive and there is an alternative explanation for this ubiquitous craving.

The study questions the common belief that psychoactive mood-enhancing compounds such as serotonin, tryptophan, phenylethylamine, tyramine and cannabinoids present in chocolate explain its appeal, pointing out that many exist in higher concentrations in other foods.

Milk chocolate and chocolate-covered confectionery are craved more than dark chocolate but contain less cocoa solids and a lower concentration of potentially psychoactive compounds. The study concludes that a liking for chocolate, and its effects on mood, is far more likely to be due to the nutritional and sensory impact of its principal constituents, sugar and fat.

Peter Rogers explained:

"A more compelling explanation lies in our ambivalent attitudes towards chocolate; it is highly desired but should be eaten with restraint (nice but naughty). Our unfulfilled desire to eat chocolate, resulting from restraint, is thus experienced as craving, which in turn is attributed to 'addiction'."

Related articles

  • Chocolate's Early History

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