Women have long been fond of chocolate, from Marie-Thérèse of Austria, Madame de Sévigné and Marie-Antoinette, to Jeanne Calment, the French woman who has the distinction of having the longest confirmed lifespan in human history.
Madame Calment, who died in 1997 at 122 years of age, reportedly ate one kilogram of chocolate every week!
Could chocolate have anything to do with her longevity?
Well, the cardiovascular benefits of dark chocolate are well-documented. In addition to reducing blood pressure, cocoa butter protects the cardiovascular system by reducing levels of dangerous cholesterol (LDL) and increasing production of the positive sort (HDL).
Now, a Swedish study carried out by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockhom suggests that eating chocolate may also lower the risk of stroke in women.
Susanna Larsson and her team used data collected for a 1997 Mammography cohort study in which some 33,000 women were asked to fill out a detailed questionnaire regarding diet and lifestyle.
The questionnaire also asked how often on average they had eaten chocolate and 95 other foods during the previous 12 months.
Over a 10-year follow-up period, the findings showed the incidence of stroke to be inversely proportional to chocolate consumption. In other words, women who ate the most chocolate had the lowest incidence of stroke.
In fact, women who ate an average of 67 grams of chocolate per week had a significantly reduced risk of stroke.
In their findings, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the study authors explain that chocolate contains flavonoids, compounds with strong anti-oxidant properties.
The latter help protect against free radicals, substances which can harm the cardiovascular system.
Larsson and her colleagues point out that higher levels of chocolate consumption are necessary for a potential protective effect… something women have perhaps intuitively known for centuries.