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Dark chocs cut heart attack risk? Not quite

Publication Date : 08-06-2012

 

If you are thinking of throwing out your cholesterol medication and chomping on dark chocolate instead, don't.

A group of cardiologists here has rubbished a recent study in Australia which claims that eating dark chocolate is a cost-effective way of cutting one's risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study is flawed, they say.

Just published in the British Medical Journal, the study claims daily consumption of dark chocolate over 10 years would cut the number of fatal strokes and heart attacks by 15 for every 10,000 people, and the number of non-fatal strokes and heart attacks by 70 for every 10,000 people.

The team from Monash University said: "Daily dark chocolate consumption could be an effective cardiovascular preventive strategy."

Flavanoids, found in dark, but not milk, chocolate, are known to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels - two risk factors for heart attacks.

The Australian researchers calculated that if the country invested A$40 a person a year in a 'chocolate strategy' with advertisements, education and possibly a subsidy, it would reap good returns.

Dr Reginald Liew, a cardiologist at Singapore's National Heart Centre, said while it is true that previous studies have shown the beneficial effects of eating dark chocolate, the researchers did not take into account the large amount of sugar and fat that would also be consumed, "which may undo some benefits found in this study".

This is a failing even the Monash team admits.

Another flaw which limits the usefulness of the result is that the study was based on statistical modelling, meaning that the outcomes are "hypothetical" and not based on "real data", said Dr Liew.

He added that even if the findings were real, people would need to eat a lot of dark chocolate daily over 10 years - for "very modest benefits".

Dr Pipin Kojodjojo from the National University Heart Centre said: "Before you rush out to stock up on dark chocolate, be aware that the study has many flaws."

It is unrealistic to expect people to eat a 100g bar of dark chocolate every day of their lives, he added. Even if one assumes that a chocolate bar costs only S$1 (78 US cents), it would cost more than S$40 million (US$31 million) to prevent 70 non-fatal strokes and heart attacks and 15 deaths among 10,000 people.

Dr Kojodjojo added: "I would argue that we'd prevent more strokes and heart attacks and save more lives if we could get 10,000 people to exercise for 20 minutes daily for 10 years, or 10,000 smokers to stop smoking for 10 years, or 10,000 at-risk patients to eat a healthier diet for 10 years."

 

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