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Can Dark Chocolate Reduce High Blood Pressure?

What if the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down becomes the medicine itself?

by
Theodore Dalrymple

Bio

July 10, 2012 - 10:30 am
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They produced a mathematical model of what would happen to their own patients at risk of cardiovascular disease if they took dark chocolate for medicinal purposes over a prolonged period. They worked out how many would have been expected to have fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events (strokes and heart attacks) if they took no therapeutic chocolate; then they worked out how many would have fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events if they took dark chocolate, on the presumption that the beneficial effects of that chocolate on high blood pressure and low-density lipoproteins persisted.

They came to the conclusion that, if compliance was 100%, a regime of dark chocolate taken for 10 years by 10,000 people at high risk of cardiovascular disease would prevent 15 fatal cardiovascular events and 70 non-fatal ones. If compliance was only 90 percent, the figures would be 10 and 60 respectively.

Of course, one must remember that this was a virtual trial, not a real one. As Goethe said, grey is theory, but green is the tree of life: in other words, full of surprises. It is possible that dark chocolate does not continue to exert a beneficial effect upon the risk factors for cardiovascular disease beyond 18 weeks. It is also possible that harmful effects of dark chocolate consumption would become evident after 18 weeks.

On the other hand, the dose of dark chocolate used in the trial seemed modest, costing only $50 a year. A higher does might have a greater effect. Perhaps dark chocolate is some kind of panacea, like aspirin.

That would overturn completely my prejudice that medicine should be nasty. I am not sure, in my heart of hearts, that I am ready for it. And then, of course, there is the question of chocolate prescribed on Medicare…

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Theodore Dalrymple, a physician, is a contributing editor of City Journal and the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His new book is Second Opinion: A Doctor's Notes from the Inner City.
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