Eating dark chocolate daily could be an effective and cost-effective long-term strategy for preventing cardiovascular events in people at high risk, contend researchers.
Their modelling study, published today on bmj.com, showed that people with metabolic syndrome who consumed dark chocolate daily for 10 years could reduce their risk of cardiovascular events.
Earlier, short-term studies had shown that dark chocolate, which is rich in flavonoids, has heart-protective effects. Researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia used a mathematical (Markov) model to predict the long-term health effects of eating dark chocolate daily in 2013 people with high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome, but who did not have heart disease or diabetes; nor were any taking antihypertensive medication. They also calculated the cost-effectiveness of this approach.
They calculated that if they could achieve 100% compliance, eating dark chocolate (≥60% cocoa solids) daily could potentially prevent 15 fatal and 70 non-fatal cardiovascular events per 10,000 people treated over 10 years. Even with a more realistic compliance figure of 80%, 10 fatal and 55 non-fatal events could be averted – still an effective intervention, they claim.
Their model showed that spending £25 per person per year, to promote and/or subsidise dark chocolate consumption, would be cost-effective in high-risk populations.
The authors emphasise that only dark chocolate – not milk or white chocolate – has been shown to have beneficial health effects; and they stress also that they did not examine other outcomes such as heart failure.
They conclude: “The blood pressure- and cholesterol-lowering effects of dark chocolate consumption are beneficial in the prevention of cardiovascular events in a population with metabolic syndrome. Daily dark chocolate consumption could be an effective cardiovascular preventive strategy in this population.”