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Chocolate found to reduce risk of stroke in men

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WASHINGTON -- Ladies, don't bogart that chocolate! Pass it on to the men.

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 per cent.

The latest findings, published in the journal Neurology, are drawn from a population of 37,103 Swedish men, whose age ranged from 45 to 79 at the start of an average follow-up period of about 10 years. The study fills out a picture of chocolate consumption, especially of dark chocolate, that has firmly demonstrated cardiovascular benefits for women. For men, however, research on chocolate's health benefits had been less consistent in its findings.

The Neurology study, released Wednesday, also cites the results of a meta-analysis (a study that pieces 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 per cent.

The precise mechanism by which chocolate works such charms is not known. Regular chocolate consumption has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve the health and efficiency of blood vessels.

A food with such powers (it is also considered an aphrodisiac) should be eaten by everyone, right?

Well, not exactly. In addition to being a rich source of flavenoids, chocolate is a rich source of fat and calories. And, to belabour the obvious, taking in too much will cause weight gain, which, in turn, can raise stroke and heart attack risk. Experts suggest that, as with wine -- another highly palatable and potent source of flavenoids -- research like this should offer reassurance to those who already eat chocolate regularly and aren't overweight or obese. But for those looking to reduce stroke risk, eating more fruits, vegetables and legumes is a lower-calorie way to get the same benefits.

-- Los Angeles Times

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 1, 2012 G5

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