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ENGLEMED HEALTH NEWS

Chocolate and rhubarb studied for health properties

Friday February 12th, 2010

Eating chocolate may help protect against having a stroke, researchers reported last night.

Evidence from two major studies has shown that regular chocolate-eaters enjoy a reduced risk of the disease, a major conference is set to be told.

Canadian doctors say more research is needed - because only three studies have looked at the connection.

The findings were met with caution by British experts.

They are due to be unveiled later this year at the conference of the American Academy of Neurology in Toronto, Canada.

Researcher Sarah Sahib, of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, said: "More research is needed to determine whether chocolate truly lowers stroke risk, or whether healthier people are simply more likely to eat chocolate than others."

Chocolate's relationship to health has always been controversial. It is rich in plant chemicals called flavonoids, which are thought to help health. But nutritionists say its high fat content is unhealthy.

The largest study has involved more than 44,000 people and found that people who ate one serving of chocolate weekly were 22 per cent less likely than to have a stroke than those who did not eat chocolate.

A second one identified by Ms Sahib involved some 1,000 people and found that those who ate 50 grams of chocolate weekly enjoyed a 46 per cent reduced risk. A third study found no connection.

A spokeswoman for the UK Food Standards Agency said eating vegetables was a better way to consume flavonoids.

She said: "As far as we are aware there is no clear evidence that chocolate can reduce the risk of stroke.

"Flavonoids occur in a variety of foods including some fruit and vegetable and if an effect was demonstrated with flavonoids the Agency would recommend that people obtain these from fruit and vegetables as part of their five a day as opposed to consuming chocolate which is high in fat and sugar."

* Baked rhubarb may have powerful health-giving properties, according to a second study published today.

British researchers, from Sheffield Hallam University, say 20 minutes of baking "dramatically" increases levels of chemicals known as polyphenols in the vegetable, a traditional favourite of Britons in pie soaked in sugar.

Writing in the journal Food Chemistry, the researchers say polyphenols are thought to be able to kill cancer cells.

Researcher Dr Nikki Jordan-Mahy said: "Our research has shown that British rhubarb is a potential source of pharmacological agents that may be used to develop new anti-cancerous drugs.

"Current treatments are not effective in all cancers and resistance is a common problem. Cancer affects one in three individuals in the UK so it's very important to discover novel, less toxic, treatments, which can overcome resistance."

Food Chemistry, Volume 119, Issue 2, 15 March 2010, Pages 758-764

Feature on Valentine's Day at Womens News UK

Tags: Diet & Food | Heart Health | North America | UK News

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