All of the women were asked to complete a questionnaire that included questions on more than 350 diet and lifestyle factors.
In the 1990s, Larsson wrote, 90 percent of the chocolate consumed in Sweden was milk chocolate that contained about 30 percent cocoa solids. This is a higher concentration of cocoa than is found in most dark chocolate products in the United States.
Larsson reviewed information from the Swedish Hospital Discharge Registry between 1998 and 2008 to document any cases of stroke among the women in her study.
Overall, 1,549 of the women in the study had a stroke. Most -- 1,200 -- were ischemic strokes. That means that a blood vessel in the brain is blocked, starving an area of the brain of blood and oxygen. Another 224 strokes were hemorrhagic strokes, which means an area of the brain is bleeding into the rest of the brain. The remaining 125 strokes were recorded as an unspecified type.
"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," said Larsson.
She added that although this study was done in women, she expects the results would be similar in men. And, she noted that although U.S. chocolate generally contains less cocoa than chocolate consumed in Europe, there should be a benefit from chocolate consumption in this country, too.
But, she suggested, "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
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