Dark chocolate is good for your health However – don’t all rush to gobble up chocolate . It’s only a small benefit, but a modeling study predicts patients with metabolic syndrome who eat a small amount of dark chocolate every day could have 85 fewer events per 10,000 population over 10 years, Chris Reid, PhD, of Monash University in Melbourne, and colleagues reported online in the British Medical Journal. This means the benefits, according to latest information, are slight – but better than nothing. And better news is that this is at an extremely low cost. Although cost is probably the last thing that would worry any chocolate lover, researchers found that at a cost of only $42 per year, treatment with the suggested amount of dark chocolate falls into an acceptable category of cost-effectiveness.

Dark chocolate

Bad luck if you are a Cadbury’s Milk Tray lover; the chocolate needs to be dark and 60% to 70% cocoa. But for dark chocoholics, The Organic Pharmacy now has Glamour Food chocolate bars, sweetened with Agave nectar, which has a low glycemic index. With cocoa butter, which apparently helps reduce cholesterol, the chocolate is rich in phenylethylamine, a natuarlly occuring alkaloid that acts like a love potion! It is said a person in love produces phenylethylamine and so taking it mimics the feel good feeling and acts as an antidepressant. Raw cacao is considered a superfood and it is one of the richest sources of anti-ageing antioxidants, flavonoids and heart friendly polyphenols. All in all, this chocolate has an unusual taste – more like difference between dry wine as opposed to semi-sweet.

More benefits

But good news is that several recent studies have suggested that eating dark chocolate has blood-pressure and lipid-lowering effects. To assess whether it could be an effective and cost-effective treatment option in patients potentially at risk for cardiovascular events, researchers looked at data from patients in the Australian Diabetes, Obesity, and Lifestyle study. They used a Markov model to assess health effects and associated costs of daily consumption of plain dark chocolate compared with no chocolate, in a population with metabolic syndrome but without diabetes or cardiovascular disease. The investigators also used risk-prediction algorithms and population life tables to determine the probability of patients developing or dying from heart disease or other noncardiovascular causes each year. Data on the blood-pressure-lowering effects of dark chocolate were taken from a meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials, and lipid-lowering effects from a meta-analysis of eight short-term trials. Costs were taken from a review of the costs of cardiovascular complications in a healthy population, and included the direct costs of myocardial infarction and stroke. They calculated the number of deaths prevented by determining the difference in the number of deaths between those consuming and not consuming dark chocolate. and found that daily consumption of dark chocolate — a polyphenol content equivalent to 100 grams of dark chocolate — can reduce cardiovascular events by 85 per 10,000 population over 10 years. Elsewhere, Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, led by Susanna Larsson, found the more chocolate women indulged in, the lower their stroke risk.

But hold it

This doesn’t mean we can scoff chocolate all day. Read this carefully : For every 50-gram (1.8-oz.) increase in chocolate consumption per week, participants’ overall stroke risk dropped 14%. The protective effect appeared to kick in at 45 g (1.6 oz.) of chocolate a week women in the highest consumption group — who ate a median of 66.5 g (2.4 oz.), or between one and two chocolate bars a week — enjoyed a 20% lower risk of stroke than those who ate the least. The potential health benefits of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, have been widely attributed to its flavonoids : antioxidant compounds in cocoa that may boost the cardiovascular system. In other studies, researchers have shown that flavonoids can enhance blood flow by relaxing blood vessels and lowering blood pressure. They may also inhibit clumping of platelets and reduce inflammation, both of which contribute to cardiovascular health.

So what ?

Do we start gorging on chocolate to protect ourselves from stroke ? Not exactly. Chocolate is decadent and is meant to be eaten in moderation. “Consuming too much chocolate is probably not good, as chocolate is rich in sugar, fat and calories, and may lead to weight gain, which increases the risk of chronic diseases,” says Larsson.