Sweet! – Stroke prevention for men

Some good news for our sweet-toothed male readers.  According to a new study published in the journal Neurology, men who eat a moderate amount of chocolate each week have a lower risk of stroke.
Investigators from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden studied 37,103 men aged 49 to 75. They were given a food questionnaire that assessed how often they consumed various foods and drinks.  Researchers then identified stroke cases through a hospital discharge registry. Over the 10 years of study there were 1,995 cases of first stroke.

Men who ate the largest amount of chocolate had a lower risk of stroke compared to those who did not consume any chocolate. Those eating the highest amount of chocolate had a 17% lower risk of stroke compared to those who ate no chocolate.

While other studies have looked at how chocolate may help cardiovascular health, this is the first of its kind study to find that chocolate, may be beneficial for reducing stroke in men,” said study author Susanna C. Larsson, PhD.

In a larger analysis of five studies that included 4,260 stroke cases, the risk of stroke for individuals in the highest category of chocolate consumption was 19% lower compared to non-chocolate consumers. For every 2 ounce increase in chocolate consumption per week the risk of stroke decreased by about 14 percent.

The beneficial effect of chocolate consumption on stroke may be related to the flavonoids in chocolate. Flavonoids appear to be protective against cardiovascular disease through antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also possible that flavonoids in chocolate may decrease blood concentrations of bad cholesterol and reduce blood pressure,” said Larsson.

Interestingly, it wasn’t just dark chocolate that conferred the benefit.  Although dark chocolate has previously been associated with heart health, about 90% of the chocolate consumed during this study was milk chocolate.

While this means that some more guilt can be removed from the pleasure of chocolate eating, we’re not advocating a mass testosterone-fuelled rush to the candy store.  Before you embark on a bob-bon binge, SRxA’s Word on Health warns that the average amount of chocolate consumed in the study was only about two and a half ounces per week – that’s the meager equivalent of one-third of a cup of chocolate chips.

More than that could lead to weight gain, which puts a strain on the entire circulatory system. Obesity also leads to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes – all of which can .increase the risk of stroke.

As always, everything in moderation!

Stop Brain Shrinkage

Did you resolve to eat healthier this year? If so, SRxA’s Word on Health brings you a couple of very good reasons to stick with it.

According to a study published in the December 28, issue of Neurology, people with diets high in vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids are less likely to have the brain shrinkage associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

People who ate diets high in omega 3 fatty acids and in vitamins B, C, D, E also had higher scores on mental thinking tests than people with diets low in those nutrients.  Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D are primarily found in oily fish. The B vitamins and antioxidants C and E are primarily found in fruits and vegetables.

Conversely, the study showed that people with diets high in trans fats were more likely to have brain shrinkage and lower scores on the thinking and memory tests than people with diets low in trans fats. Trans fats are primarily found in packaged, fast, fried and frozen food, baked goods and margarine spreads.

The study included over 104 people, with very few risk factors for memory and thinking problems. Blood tests were used to determine the levels of various nutrients in the blood of each participant. Participants also took tests of their memory and thinking skills and underwent MRI scans to measure their brain volume.

The nutrient biomarkers in the blood accounted for a significant amount of the variation in both brain volume and thinking and memory scores. For the thinking and memory scores, the nutrient biomarkers accounted for 17% of the variation in the scores. Other factors such as age, number of years of education and high blood pressure accounted for 46% of the variation and, the nutrient biomarkers accounted for 37% of the variation seen in brain volume.

These results need to be confirmed, but obviously it is very exciting to think that people could potentially stop their brains from shrinking and keep them sharp by adjusting their diet,” said study author Gene Bowman, ND, MPH, of Oregon Health & Science University.

Although the average age of study participants was 87, we’re going to start heeding this advice now. Salmon salad anyone?