Could this be too good to be true? Eating chocolate to prevent heart disease death and it’s cost effective too? A new study claims to show that eating dark chocolate can have a positive and long-term effect on your health?
A group of Australian researchers, looked at 2013 people with comparable cardiovascular risk profiles. They compiled the outcomes of short-term trials comparing the health outcomes of people who had a daily dose of dark chocolate with those who did not and extrapolated long-term trends by means of a complex mathematical formula. Their conclusion: 100 grams a day of dark chocolate can lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, and might consequently prevent about 85 fatal cardiovascular events per decade in every 10,000 people. These possible benefits, however, only apply to dark chocolate having at least 60-70% cocoa and lots of flavanols.
Cleveland Clinic’s Steven Nissen, MD, and A. Marc Gillinov, MD, dissect the data on dark chocolate and cardiovascular disease in their book, Heart 411. Like the Australian authors, Nissen and Gillinov recognize that small, short-term studies suggest that dark chocolate can reduce blood pressure and, perhaps, LDL cholesterol. But we do not have evidence that these effects are maintained over the long term. And this study’s use of mathematical models to suggest real health benefits cannot replace real data from controlled studies.
There are certainly limitations to the study since there were many assumptions made in creating the model itself as well as taking short term data and relating it to long term health benefits. The study is provocative, but does not prove that eating dark chocolate alone will have long term benefits. For heart health, it is reasonable to eat a few bites of dark chocolate every day as part of a Mediterranean diet and a lifestyle that includes regular exercise and tobacco avoidance. But don’t fall prey to the idea that dark chocolate alone ensures heart health.