Eating dark chocolate every day may lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke for some people at higher risk of these conditions, a new study from Australia found.
Researchers gathered data on 2,013 people who had metabolic syndrome — which is a cluster of medical issues that includes high blood pressure, a large waist and low levels of "good" cholesterol — and used mathematical equations to predict how eating dark chocolate daily could affect the number of strokes and heart attacks the group would be expected to have.
Based on their results, the researchers calculated that for every 10,000 people with metabolic syndrome who ate 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate every day for 10 years, 70 non-fatal and 15 fatal cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks or strokes, could be prevented.
Studies have shown that the risk of cardiovascular disease can be lowered over the short-term by eating compounds called flavonoids, which are abundant in dark chocolate. Flavonoids are known to have antihypertensive and anti-inflammatory effects, which relieve pressures on the heart, the researchers said.
The new study suggests that eating dark chocolate is a cost-efficient way to reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes in this study population over a longer term, the researchers said.
The researchers noted that the study only looked at strokes and heart attacks, so how dark chocolate might affect the risks of other cardiovascular diseases, such as heart failure, must still be assessed.
The study was published today (May 31) in the British Medical Journal, and was funded by the Australian Research Council and the drug company Sanofi-Aventis Australia.
Pass it on: For people with higher risk of heart attack or stroke, adding dark chocolate to the daily diet may reduce risk.