A recent study conducted at Melbourne's Monash University of 2,013 Australians who consumed 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of dark chocolate containing 70% or higher cocoa content over a ten-year period revealed significant protection against heart attacks and strokes, according to a paper describing the study in the British Medical Journal.
Lead researcher Ella Zomer said the team found that 70 fatal and 15 non-fatal cardiovascular events per 10,000 people could be prevented over ten years if patients at risk of having a heart attack or stroke consumed dark chocolate each day, according to AFP.
Zomer's research partner Chris Reid said measurements from the subjects, all of whom had classic risk factors such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and/or body weight, were run through epidemiological modelling.
COMMENT: The projections of likely deaths and other non-fatal events between those who consumed dark chocolate and those who did not were compared and there was a notable difference.
High-cocoa chocolate is beneficial because it contains antioxidant chemicals called polyphenols which help keep blood vessels dilated, thereby reducing blood pressure and improving blood flow. Green tea and brightly colored fruits such as red apples and blueberries are also major sources of polyphenols.
Reid said it is important to find ways to reduce heart disease as Australia's population ages and the increasing numbers of at-risk people who can use lifestyle, dietary and exercise changes to head off the need for drugs.
Although consumption of dark chocolate alone can lead to obesity, itself a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, Reid emphasized that people that are at risk of cardiovascular disease and stoke should include chocolate consumption in concert with healthy food choices and regular exercise.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide according to the World Health Organization (WHO), accounting for 30% of all global deaths.