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Dark chocolate could be medicine?

Friday June 1st, 2012

Eating dark chocolate every day could help people who are at risk of developing heart disease and diabetes, according to an analysis published today.

An Australian study, published on the British Medical Journal, found that eaters of dark chocolate seem to enjoy a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.

The researchers used a mathematical formula to predict the long-term health effects and cost effectiveness of eating dark chocolate every day.

Researchers from Monash University, Melbourne, enrolled 2,013 participants, all of whom were at high risk of heart disease, to see the effects of consuming the flavonoid-rich chocolate every day.

Using the Markov model, they showed that with 100 per cent compliance, daily dark chocolate consumption could potentially avert 70 non-fatal and 15 fatal heart attacks and stroke per 10,000 people treated over 10 years.

When patients skipped one in five days, the number of non-fatal and fatal strokes and heart attacks potentially averted was 55 and 10 per 10,000 people treated over 10 years.

The protective effects were shown only for dark chocolate with at least 60 per cent cocoa, not milk or white chocolate.

The findings led the researchers to suggest that $A40 (about £25) could be cost effectively spent per person per year on advertising, educational campaigns, or subsidising dark chocolate in this high risk population.

The authors stress that only non-fatal stroke and non-fatal heart attack were assessed in their analysis, and that the potential effects on other cardiovascular events, such as heart failure, have yet to be tested.

Researcher Professor Christopher Reid, says plain dark chocolate "could represent an effective and cost effective strategy for people with metabolic syndrome (and no diabetes)."

The effectiveness and cost effectiveness of dark chocolate consumption as prevention therapy in people at high risk of cardiovascular disease: best case scenario analysis using a Markov model. Zomer E et al. British Medical Journal. May 31 2012. BMJ 2012;344:e3657 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e3657

Tags: Australia | Diet & Food | Heart Health

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