As much as it’s a giant Cathy-esque stereotype, it’s also a little bit true–women do tend to love chocolate (or at least, they love to read about it), and they’re always looking to find another shred of evidence that it may, in fact, be a little bit beneficial to their health. So here’s another one to add to the healthy chocolate pile: a recent study found that women who ate more chocolate were less likely to have a stroke.
The study, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, collected self-reported data about chocolate consumption from 33,372 women in Sweden. Beginning in the 1990s, the researchers began to monitor the women, and recorded which of the women had stokes, and looked at the link between how much chocolate they ate. And it turns out, women who reported eating more chocolate, across the board, suffered fewer strokes. A lot fewer.
But don’t reach for the Kit Kat just yet; as with all studies that look for links, there’s a very substantial possibility that some other factor may have contributed to the lower incidents of stroke among the women who ate chocolate. Like that maybe they also all had lower heart rates to begin with, or that they all also made up for their chocolate consumption with exercise, both of which would lower their risk.
And, of course, it’s not chocolate itself that may reduce the risk of stokes among women–it’s most likely the flavonoids, which have been shown to reduce blood pressure, are also present in wine, citrus fruits, and tea. Which means the study could just as easily have monitored intake of oranges or red wine, and would likely have turned up similarly positive results.
Still, regardless of the source, the evidence in this particular study is actually pretty compelling. Despite being unable to prove causality (because it’s pretty impossible to state that one behavior leads to another result conclusively), there does appear to be a definite link. As Reuters reported, among 1,000 women who consumed more than 45 grams of chocolate per week, there were just 2.5 stokes in one year. Among women who ate the least amount of chocolate, there were about 7.8 per 1,000.
This study joins the ranks of dozens of others that espouse the health benefits of a modest amount chocolate–but it’s all about making smart choices. High-quality dark chocolate, which contains less milk, sugar, and preservatives than cheap chocolate and novelty candy bars (hello, Halloween candy) is a rich source of flavonoids, without offering additional fat and calories. So treat yourself to a bite of the good stuff, and rest assured that, in small amounts, you’re probably doing your body a solid.
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