Chocolate fans who eat 'a serving a week' 22% less likely to suffer stroke
A study of nearly 50,000 people found that those eating chocolate were 22 per cent less likely to suffer a stroke than those who did not.
And those who did suffer a stroke but had indulged in chocolate were 46 per cent less likely to die as a result.
The reason is believed to be that the food is rich in flavanoids, a health-promoting anti-oxidant, although researchers at the University of Toronto in Canada are keen to carry out extra studies.
Study author Sarah Sahib, of the University of Toronto, said: "More research is needed to determine whether chocolate truly lowers stroke risk, or whether healthier people are simply more likely to eat chocolate than others."
Researchers found that 44,489 people who ate one serving of chocolate per week were 22 per cent less likely to have a stroke than people who ate no choco-late. A second study found that 1,169 people who ate 50 grams of chocolate once a week were 46 per cent less likely to die following a stroke than people who did not eat chocolate.
The researchers found only one additional relevant study in their search of all the available research. That study found no link between eating chocolate and risk of stroke or death.
The findings are due to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 62nd Annual Meeting in Toronto in April.
Much research in recent years has looked at the potential health benefits of chocolate.
Dark chocolate with a high content of cocoa is thought to offer the best benefits.
Last year researchers in Aberdeen launched a search for healthy volunteers to eat dark chocolate to see whether the cocoa compounds could help protect against heart disease.
Experts warned that the new study should not be seen as a green light to start eating vast amounts of chocolate to boost heart health, as the high sugar and fat content bring their own health problems.
Dr Sahib's colleague Dr Gustavo Saposnik warned: "Eating too much chocolate can make you fat, as chocolate also contains saturated fats. Further investigation needs to be done. We need to study specific chocolate consumption."
Cardiovascular diseases – conditions that affect the heart and circulatory system – are the biggest cause of death in the UK, causing more than one in three deaths overall.
Cocoa compounds have previously been suspected to have certain qualities that might help protect the heart from disease.
But some doctors are less keen for chocolate to be seen as a healthy food.
Last year a British Medical Association conference heard calls for chocolate to be taxed in the same way as alcohol, to tackle the obesity crisis.
Dr David Walker, a Lanarkshire GP, has warned that many people eat their entire daily calorie requirement in chocolate, on top of their normal meals.
EATING baked rhubarb could help fight cancer. Researchers at Sheffield Hallam University found that baking British garden rhubarb for 20 minutes dramatically increased its levels of cancer-combating chemicals.
The findings, published with the Scottish Crop Research Institute, showed that the chemicals, called polyphenols, could kill or prevent the growth of cancer cells and could be used to develop new, less toxic, treatments for the disease, even in cases where cancers had proven resistant to other treatments. It is the first time the benefits of British garden rhubarb have been studied.