May 31, 2012 -- Should people at high risk of heart attack and stroke eat dark chocolate every day?
Maybe, according to a new study from Australia.
"Dark chocolate may be a pleasant and effective way of delivering important dietary components that can provide health benefits to the ever increasing numbers of people at increased risk of cardiovascular disease," says researcher Christopher M. Reid, PhD, professor of cardiovascular epidemiology and preventive medicine at Monash University in Australia.
Reid and his team constructed a mathematical model to predict the long-term health effects of eating dark chocolate daily in high-risk people. They did not study actual people eating actual chocolate.
The researchers also computed whether it would be cost-effective to spend money on a public education campaign about dark chocolate's benefits. They found it would be.
Reid's team first looked at the treatment effects linked with dark chocolate by evaluating studies already published.
They computed the number of heart attacks and strokes that would occur with and without the dark chocolate.
They also looked at 2,013 people from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity, and Lifestyle study. All had metabolic syndrome but none had diagnosed heart disease or diabetes at the start.
Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. It is diagnosed when three or more of the following factors are present: high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low levels of "good" HDL cholesterol, high blood sugar, or a large waist size.
Reid's team looked at costs associated with the heart and stroke problems.
They used these cost figures to determine how much money could be spent each year to educate high-risk people about dark chocolate and still be cost-effective.
Their study looked longer-term than most, 10 years, Reid says.