Good news for your sweet tooth -- a Swedish study has found a link between high chocolate consumption (more than 45 grams a week -- about as much as two candy bars) and a 20 percent decrease in stroke risk among women.
"Cocoa contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and can suppress oxidation of low-density lipoprotein ['bad' cholesterol] which can cause cardiovascular disease [including stroke]," study author Susanna Larsson, an associate professor in the division of nutritional epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, told HealthDay about the findings, which were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Larsson and her team evaluated more than 30,000 women between ages 49 and 83. In 1997, these volunteers were asked to report how often they ate chocolate (along with nearly 100 other foods).
For the next 10 years, those women who consumed high amounts of chocolate were associated with a lower incidence of stroke -- their rate of stroke was 2.5 per 1,000, compared to 7.8 per 1,000 among their peers who ate fewer than 8.9 grams.
But the findings, which join a host of other studies pointing to the positive health benefits of chocolate, aren't necessarily an invitation to celebrate with a chocolate binge.
"Chocolate should be consumed in moderation as it is high in calories, fat and sugar," Larsson told Reuters. "As dark chocolate contains more cocoa and less sugar than milk chocolate, consumption of dark chocolate would be more beneficial."
Take a look at some of the other healthy benefits of chocolate -- but Larrson's advice stands here, as well. Consuming too much chocolate can be counterproductive, as it's often loaded with calories.
A study published earlier this year in the Chemistry Central Journal found that chocolate is loaded with antioxidants, packing more polyphenols and flavanols than fruit juice. "Cacao seeds thus provide nutritive value beyond that derived from their macronutrient composition and appear to meet the popular media's definition of a 'Super Fruit,'" the study authors wrote in the conclusion section of their findings.
Several studies have illustrated a link between eating chocolate and a boost in heart health, including one published this past August in the British Medical Journal. This team of researchers, from the University of Cambridge, conducted a review of seven studies -- five of those indicated a healthy link. "Based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders," the scientists wrote in their conclusions. They do, however, caution that more confirmation is needed, especially since chocolate is high in calories, which could contribute to weight gain, risk of diabetes and heart disease.
A small 2005 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that short-term consumption of dark chocolate is linked to an increase in insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood pressure among healthy people. A 2008 study published in The Journal Of Nutrition had similar findings, but this time among hypertensive people after 15 days of consuming dark chocolate.
A small 2009 study published in The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking skim milk with cocoa powder may have anti-inflammatory properties that can stave off atherosclerosis among patients who are at high-risk.
As stressed people everywhere will attest, chocolate seems to have mood-bosting qualities -- though the research isn't entirely there to back up that claim yet. HuffPost blogger John Robbins hypothesized earlier this year that the reason may come down to several ingredients, including theobromine, phenethylamine and anandamide, and the fact that it can boost serotonin levels. In addition, a study last year found that depressed people eat more chocolate -- which may suggest a link between mood and chocolate.
A new Swedish study has found a link between high chocolate consumption (more than 45 grams a week -- about as much as two candy bars a week) and a 20 percent decrease in stroke risk among women.