Medicine Today: Does chocolate prevent stroke?

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Can a guilty treat reduce your risk of stroke? If only it were that easy.

Mandawat
Mandawat

Strokes occur when the brain does not receive adequate oxygen and are akin to a heart attack for the brain. The area of the brain that is affected might lose function and result in loss of speech, vision or limb control. Strokes affect approximately 800,000 Americans each year and are difficult to treat.

According to a new European study published in Neurology, high amounts of chocolate consumption are associated with a lower risk of stroke. Ee should be cautious when interpreting the study’s results.

Dr. Susanne Larsson, an associate professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, analyzed chocolate consumption in more than 37,000 Swedish men between age 45 and 79. After following these men for an average of 10 years, researchers reported that patients who ate a lot of chocolate – approximately 1½ standard-size Hershey bars per week – had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke when compared to those who consumed no chocolate.

Dr. Larsson’s study has many limitations. Chocolate consumption was measured using a single 96-question survey completed by patients only at the beginning of the study. How accurately did you fill out your last 96-question survey?

Also, because no survey was done at the end of the study, the paper does not account for changes in chocolate consumption during the 10-year period.

In addition, researchers were unable to identify the type of chocolate (dark vs. milk chocolate) patients consumed, a distinction that might have a large impact on the risk of stroke.

The results do not apply to many patients, including women, patients with heart disease or diabetics, as these groups were excluded.

Patients should be cautious about increasing their chocolate consumption based on this study. Chocolate contains a high concentration of fat and sugar, and overconsumption can contribute to weight gain, heart disease or diabetes.

Enjoy your Hershey bar for its taste, but further study is needed before we can say it will reduce your risk of a stroke.

The best defense against stroke is good control of risk factors such as heart disease, high blood pressure and smoking.

ANANT MANDAWAT, A GRADUATE OF LAKESIDE HIGH SCHOOL AND YALE UNIVERSITY’S MEDICAL SCHOOL, IS A DOCTOR OF INTERNAL MEDICINE AT MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL AND HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL.


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