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Will Dark Chocolate a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

Study: Dark Chocolate May Lower Heart Disease and Stroke Risks
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Dark Chocolate to Prevent Heart Disease, Stroke

First, the researchers plugged in the best-case scenario: 100% of the people eating the recommended 100 grams of dark chocolate (3.5 ounces, or about two bars) a day for 10 years.

This would prevent 70 nonfatal and 15 fatal heart attacks and strokes per 10,000 people over 10 years, according to the study model.

With an 80% adherence rate, there would be 55 fewer nonfatal and 10 fewer fatal heart attacks and strokes per 10,000 people over 10 years.

The estimates may be low, Reid says.

They found that it would be cost-effective to spend $42 per person per year on education.

The education might include advertising, educational campaigns, or subsidies to pay for the chocolate, Reid says.

Other Experts Not Convinced

The new model drew mixed reactions from U.S. chocolate researchers.

"It's over-assuming the benefits," says Eric Ding, PhD, nutritionist and epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School. He reviewed the findings.

"They are basing their estimates on heart disease intermediate risk factors (blood pressure and cholesterol) and not on actual heart disease events, like heart attacks," Ding tells WebMD.

The researchers are ignoring some downsides, he says. "They are ignoring the dangers of too many calories and too much fat and sugar from the chocolate bar," he says.

Those at risk of heart attack and stroke should first focus on lifestyle, Ding says. That includes weight loss if needed, exercising regularly, and not smoking.

Joe Vinson, PhD, professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton and a long-time chocolate researcher, likes the study, even though it has limitations.

"It's all theoretical based on statistics," he says. Even so, he says, "It's wonderful news again on the health effects of dark chocolate for people who have a little higher risk [of heart problems] than the normal person."

With their doctor's approval, people at risk of heart attacks or strokes could eat a bit of dark chocolate daily and monitor their weight and blood pressure, Vinson suggests.

He recommends eating less than 100 grams used in the model. He suggests about 40 grams, or about one chocolate bar, daily.

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