Amid today’s reports of unemployment in the US and in Europe, rising student debt from loans for college and other not exactly cheery topics, the British Medical Journal tells us that, for people at risk for heart disease, daily consumption of dark chocolate can actually reduce cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes. Specifically, for those who have metabolic syndrome, which increases their risk for heart disease and diabetes, consuming dark chocolate (which is made up of 60% cocoa solids) can be beneficial.
A number of other studies have noted the potential health effects of chocolate and of dark chocolate in particular; one study suggests it helps to relieve emotional stress. The new study, by researchers from Melbourne, Australia, used a mathematical model to assess the long-term health effects and the cost effectiveness of daily dark chocolate consumption. 2,013 people, who were at high risk of heart disease and had high blood pressure, participated; none had a history of heart disease or diabetes or were undergoing treatment to lower their blood pressure.
With 100% compliance (best case scenario), the researchers show that daily dark chocolate consumption could potentially avert 70 non-fatal and 15 fatal cardiovascular events per 10,000 people treated over 10 years.
Even when compliance levels were reduced to 80%, the number of non-fatal and fatal events potentially averted was 55 and 10 per 10,000 people treated over 10 years, and could still be considered an effective intervention strategy.
The researchers also found that spending only about $42 a year on dark chocolate could have the prevention effects. Dark chocolate contains compounds called flavonoids (which have been shown to be antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic) and at higher levels than milk or white chocolate; it is not certain if these other types of chocolate might have the same benefits. “Daily dark chocolate consumption,” the researchers conclude, could be an “effective cardiovascular preventive strategy” specifically for those with metabolic syndrome.
Unless you are a chocolate-hater (I have known a few who described themselves as such), the “dark chocolate treatment” seems to have quite a bit more going for it than other treatments for heart disease, of a preventative sort and otherwise. First, it is cheap. Also, people are likely to actually follow the treatment: not a bad thing to have a doctor tell you, go and take your chocolate.
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