08/30/2012 10:48 am ET

Chocolate Consumption Linked With Decreased Stroke Risk In Men

Chocolate's good for the heart, chocolate's good for the brain ... and now chocolate is good for stroke risk?

A new study in the journal Neurology shows that chocolate consumption is linked with a decreased risk of stroke in men.

"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," study researcher Susanna C. Larsson, Ph.D., of the Karolinska Institute, said in a statement. "It's also possible that flavonoids in chocolate may decrease blood concentrations of bad cholesterol and reduce blood pressure."

The new study included 37,103 men from Sweden, who were between ages 49 and 75. They filled out questionnaires detailing the frequency with which they ate certain foods, including chocolate.

Then, the researchers followed up with them 10 years later, and found that 1,995 of the study participants had suffered a stroke.

The study participants who ate the most chocolate had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke than those who didn't report any chocolate consumption, researchers found. The highest amount of chocolate consumption was 63 grams -- in terms of chocolate chips, it's about one-third of a cup.

Plus, researchers analyzed the results of five past studies, and also found a link between stroke risk and chocolate consumption. That analysis, which included 4,260 cases of stroke, showed that the biggest chocolate eaters had a 19 percent decreased risk of stroke, compared to the lowest chocolate eaters.

However, it's important to note that this was only an observational study -- researchers only identified a link between eating chocolate and stroke risk, not a cause-and-effect relationship.

Men might not be the only ones to benefit from chocolate, either -- a study last year from the same researchers showed that women who consumed the most chocolate also had a lower risk of stroke, USA Today reported.

While we are all for chocolate-is-good-for-you news, keep in mind, though, that it can be high in calories, fat and sugar -- so remember not to overdo it.

Want more sweet reasons to love chocolate? Click through the slideshow:

  • 1 It Reduces Stroke Risk
    A 2011 Swedish study found that women who ate more than 45 grams of chocolate a week had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke than women who treated themselves to fewer than 9 grams of the sweet stuff.
  • 2 It Boosts Heart Health
    Matija Puhek/500px
    Regular chocolate eaters welcome a host of benefits for their hearts, including lower blood pressure, lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease. One of the reasons dark chocolate is especially heart-healthy is its inflammation-fighting properties, which reduce cardiovascular risk.
  • 3 It Fills You Up
    Kohei Hara via Getty Images
    Because it's rich in fiber, dark chocolate can actually help keep you full, so you'll eat less, Dr. David Katz, founding director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center and HuffPost blogger told The Huffington Post. Regular chocolate eaters might do themselves a favor by treating themselves to a bite instead of snacking on "11 other things first" he said. Dark chocolate does the trick much better than milk, according to a small study from the University of Copenhagen, and may even reduce cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods.
  • 4 It May Fight Diabetes
    Julie Thompson
    A small Italian study from 2005 found that regularly eating chocolate increases insulin sensitivity, thereby reducing risk for diabetes.
  • 5 It Protects Your Skin
    Katerina Nanopoulou via Alamy
    Forget what you've heard about chocolate causing breakouts: Dark chocolate is actually good for your skin. The type of antioxidants called flavonoids found in dark chocolate offer some protection from UV damage from the sun. And no, that does not mean you can skip the sunscreen!
  • 6 It Can Quiet Coughs
    Andrew Harding via Jupiter Images
    Can't stop coughing? An ingredient in chocolate called theobromine seems to reduce activity of the vagus nerve, the part of the brain that triggers hard-to-shake coughs. In late 2010, the BBC reported that scientists were investigating creating a drug containing theobromine to preplace cough syrups containing codeine, which can have risky side effects.
  • 7 It Boosts Your Mood
    There's no denying that indulging your sweet tooth every once in a while feels great. Enjoying food is part of enjoying life, points out HuffPost Healthy Living's wellness editor, Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald. Chocolate eaters also report feeling less stressed.
  • 8 It Improves Blood Flow
    Lisa Capretto/OWN
    Cocoa has anti-clotting, blood-thinning properties that work in a similar way to aspirin, Dr. Fitzgerald writes, which can improve blood flow and circulation.
  • 9 It Improves Vision
    Jamie Grill via Getty Images
    Because of chocolate's ability to improve blood flow, in particular to the brain, researchers at the University of Reading hypothesized in a small 2011 study that chocolate may also increase blood flow to the retina, thereby giving vision a boost.
  • 10 It May Make You Smarter
    Getty Images
    That boost of blood flow to the brain created by cocoa's flavanols seems to make people feel more awake and alert, and, in a small British study, perform better on counting tasks.