Eating dark chocolate every day reduces the likelihood of having heart attacks and strokes in people with metabolic syndrome, according to a new study. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of factors that make you more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa) is known to have heart-protecting effects, but previously its effects had only been studied over short periods of time.
For the new study, a team of researchers used a mathematical model to study the long-term health effects, and cost effectiveness, of daily dark chocolate consumption in 2,013 people already at high risk of heart disease.
All the study participants had high blood pressure and met the criteria for metabolic syndrome. But none of them had any history of heart disease or diabetes, and none were on any blood-pressure-lowering therapies.
With 100% compliance, the researchers found that daily consumption of dark chocolate could prevent up to 70 non-fatal and 15 fatal cardiovascular events per 10,000 people over a 10 year period.
With compliance levels at 80%, the numbers dropped slightly, preventing 55 non-fatal and 10 fatal events per 10,000 people over 10 years.
The researchers say that with a $42 per year price, this could be a cost-effective prevention strategy for cardiovascular events (not that many people mind buying chocolate).
The researchers point out, though, that their research only included heart attack and stroke risks and has not yet factored in other cardiovascular problems, such as heart failure.
Also important, they say, is that their research only used dark chocolate of at least 60-70% cocoa, and not milk chocolate or white chocolate. The health benefits of dark chocolate are attributed to the high levels of flavonoids found in cocoa.
Concluding, the study authors say that dark chocolate “could represent an effective and cost effective strategy for people with metabolic syndrome (and no diabetes).”
The research has just been published in the British Medical Journal.