Good news for women and confectionary makers around the world, with new research showing health benefits from eating more chocolate.

The article published in the Oct 18th issue of Journal of the American College of Cardiology studied more than 33,000 Swedish women who did not have any medical history of stroke, heart disease, cancer or diabetes and were between the ages of 49 and 83. The ladies completed surveys on 350+ dietary and lifestyle indicators.

In short the study found women with the highest chocolate consumption, on average at least two candy bars per week had a twenty percent less likelihood of stroke.

Susanna Larsson, an associate professor in the division of nutritional epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm explains :

“Cocoa contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and can suppress oxidation of low-density lipoprotein [‘bad’ cholesterol] which can cause cardiovascular disease [including stroke].”

In some ways its old news because chocolate, which was considered precious and even magical to the Mayan’s who first used it hundreds of years ago, has already been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower insulin resistance and prevent blood clots. None the less with tobacco firmly off the menu and alcohol and coffee now in the cross hairs as public health enemies, it’s nice to have one treat left that doesn’t leave us thinking of some gruesome disease or other, every time we enjoy it.

Chocoholics will still have to control themselves with doctors also reminding us that it’s important to keep a balanced diet and saying that the research doesn’t necessarily mean people should start wolfing down bars of chocolate every day.

Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist and medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City weighs in:

“It’s important to keep findings like these in context. These findings don’t mean that people need to exchange chocolate for broccoli in their diet …. Chocolate does have antioxidants, and antioxidants are beneficial for your health. They can help make your arteries more flexible and they can help you resist the oxidation of cholesterol. But, what if they had tried this study with apple skins or grapes?”

In the study of 33,000 in total 1549 women had a stroke. Most of them around 1200, were ischemic which means the blood vessel in the brain is blocked, starving an area of oxygen, another 244 were hemorrhagic which means, as the name suggests that bleeding is occurring, the rest were unspecificied.

It’s worth noting as well that many brands of chocolate do not contain a decent amount of cacao and are primarily sugary fatty snacks, especially in the US, where chocolate bars have a lower percentage of cacao compared to the finer brands from famous chocolate countries, such as France, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium.

Professor Larsson concludes :

“We observed that women with the highest consumption of chocolate [an average of about 2.3 ounces per week] had a significant 20 percent lower risk [of stroke] than those who never or rarely consumed chocolate ….. chocolate should preferably be consumed as dark chocolate, as it contains more of the beneficial flavonoids, as well as less sugar ….. There’s an upside and a downside to everything. I don’t think people should eat all the chocolate they can, but some chocolate in moderation can have some benefit,” said Goldberg. She added that it’s important to remember that chocolate has a lot of sugar and fat, and it also contains caffeine. So, if you’re prone to irregular heartbeats or high blood pressure, eating chocolate may affect those conditions.

Rupert Shepherd for Medical News