Study finds chocolate may decrease risk of irregular heartbeat

Using food-frequency questionnaires to determine chocolate consumption, scientists collected diet and health data from 55,502 men and women ages 50 to 64 in Denmark. The condition doubles the risk of dying from other cardiac conditions, including stroke, heart attacks and heart failure. After accounting for other factors related to heart disease, there were 10 per cent fewer cases of AF in people who ate between one and three servings of chocolate a month than among those who ate less than one serving a month.

Results were identical for men and women. How rich in cocoa a chocolate product is can greatly vary, so it is hard to draw general conclusions from this study.

Previous studies have suggested that cocoa and cocoa-containing foods-in particular, dark chocolate, which has a higher cocoa content than milk chocolate-confer cardiovascular benefits, perhaps due to their high content of flavanols, which may promote healthy blood vessel function.

According to Mostofsky et al, moderate chocolate intake may be inversely associated with AF risk, although residual confounding can not be ruled out.

The results were published this week in the journal Heart.

Women who had one weekly serving of chocolate had a 21 percent lower risk of developing atrial fibrillation.

The authors, from the Duke Centre for Atrial Fibrillation in North Carolina, USA, wrote that chocolate eaters in the study were healthier and more highly educated - factors associated with better general health - which might have influenced the findings.

What is also interesting is the fact that data shows how study participants who consumed the most chocolate had a lower BMI (body mass index) despite the fact that they consumed more calories.

The participants were asked to consume a certain fixed amount of serving of chocolate per week each serving being equal to 30 grams.

Men who consumed two to six servings of chocolate a week had the greatest risk reduction - a 23 lower risk.

The study tracked people's health for more than 13 years, over which time more than 3,300 cases of atrial fibrillation emerged.

In most studies, any observed benefits appear highest in dark chocolate, perhaps because it contains less fat and sugar content.

Previous research has found high consumption of chocolate can lead to more heart health benefits, but moderation is key. "I suspect that the reduced risk of atrial fibrillation is more to do with these factors than their chocolate intake directly".

James Cadbury's chocolate company "Love Cocoa" pop up stall at Old Street Underground station on April 5, 2017 in London, United Kingdom.

Globally 33 million people are affected by atrial fibrillation, with 1 in 4 adults developing it at some point in their life span.

Cardiologist Dr. David Friedman said that although study did have its limitations, "it made a sweet suggestion that there is a potential link with higher intake of chocolate consumption and less development of atrial fibrillation events".

"As part of a healthy diet, moderate intake of chocolate is a healthy snack choice", Mostofsky said.

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