Fancy a chocolate bar? Regularly indulging in the snack may actually help men decrease their risk of having a stroke, according to a Swedish study.
Researchers writing in the journal Neurology found that of more than 37,000 men followed for a decade, those who ate the most chocolate - typically the equivalent of one-third of a cup of chocolate chips - had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke than men who avoided chocolate.
The study is hardly the first to link chocolate to cardiovascular benefits, with several previous ones suggesting that chocolate fans have lower rates of certain risks for heart disease and stroke, like high blood pressure.
"The beneficial effect of chocolate consumption on stroke may be related to the flavonoids in chocolate," wrote Susanna Larsson, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, who led the study.
Another study she conducted last year found similar results for women.
Flavonoids are compounds that act as antioxidants and may have positive effects on blood pressure, cholesterol and blood vessel function, according to studies.
For the study, 37,000 Swedish men aged 49 to 75 reported on their usual intake of chocolate and other foods. Over the next 10 years, 1,995 men suffered a first-time stroke.
Among men in the top 25 percent for chocolate intake, the stroke rate was 73 per 100,000 men per year. That compared with a rate of 85 per 100,000 among men who ate the least chocolate, report the researchers.
Larsson's team had information on other factors, such as the men's weight and other diet habits, whether they smoked and whether they had high blood pressure. Even with those factors considered, men who ate the most chocolate had a 17 percent lower stroke risk.
Other researchers, though, noted that none of the studies to date have proved that chocolate is the reason for the lower stroke risk.
"It's very important for people to take the news on chocolate with a grain of salt," said Richard Libman, vice chair of neurology at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute in Manhasset, New York.
Libman said the theory that flavonoids may have a positive impact remains just a theory and that a wide range of much healthier foods also contain flavonoids - such as apples, kale, broccoli, soy, tea and nuts.
"You can't start advising people to eat chocolate based on this. Think of the negative effects that could result, like obesity and type 2 diabetes."