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Good news! Chocolate cuts stroke risk in women

The tasty health benefits that come with indulging in a little chocolate just keep getting sweeter, which is deliciously satisfying information for female chocolate lovers everywhere.

WOMEN who eat about two chocolate bars a week could reduce their chances of having a stroke by 20%, according to a new study.

A study of more than 33,000 Swedish women found that those who ate the most chocolate had the lowest chance of stroke.

People who ate 66g per week – about a bar and a half – were 20pc less likely to suffer a stroke, while those who consumed 8g a week or less were at the highest risk.

"The protection started at more than 45 grams [about 1.5 ounces] a week," says researcher Susanna C. Larsson, PhD, of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

The findings, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, add further weight to previous studies which highlight the health benefits of eating chocolate and cocoa.

Earlier this year Cambridge University experts found that regular doses of chocolate can reduce the risk of heart disease by a third, while a separate study suggested it can be as good for the health as exercise.

Scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm questioned 33,372 women about their eating habits in 1997 and over the next decade about 1,600 suffered strokes.

Susanna Larsson, one of three researchers, said: "We followed 33,000 women over the course of 10 years, and we found that those who ate most chocolate had a much lower risk – 20 per cent lower – of suffering a stroke."

Chocolate was expected to help protect against stroke because it lowers blood pressure, thereby reducing a key risk factor, she added. The protective benefits of chocolate are due, she says, to the flavonoids in the cocoa. They have antioxidant properties. They protect the body from damage by substances called free radicals. These can harm the cardiovascular system.

The women who took part were not asked whether the chocolate they ate was dark or light, a distinction which would have helped establish a firmer connection between cocoa – the protective agent in chocolate – and stroke risk.

The researchers will now carry out a similar study in men, and expect to find similar results.