Good news, chocoholics!
A study by Harvard University has found a link between eating more chocolate and reducing your risk of a fatal heart condition, called atrial fibrillation (AF).
Eating two to six ounces of chocolate a week — the equivalent of the same number of mini, Halloween-size bars — can lower your risk of AF by 20 percent, according to researchers. The condition, characterized by an irregular and often rapid heart rate, has been linked to a higher risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. A person’s risk of developing it is based on factors including age, diabetes, and having high blood pressure.
The study analyzed a large Danish database of 55,502 men and women and, at the outset, recorded their BMI, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Among the group looked at, 3,346 were identified with atrial fibrillation over a 13.5-year follow-up period.
For women, the biggest risk reduction was seen for eating one serving of chocolate per week. For men, on the other hand, the reduced heart condition risk came with eating two to six servings per week.
Researchers found that those who ate one to three servings, or ounces, per month had a 10 percent lower rate of AF than those who consumed a one-ounce serving of chocolate less than once monthly. Those who ate one serving per week had a 17 percent lower rate; and those who ate two to six servings per week had a 20 percent lower rate.
Previous studies have also shown that cocoa and foods containing cocoa provide cardiovascular benefits, particularly dark chocolate, which has a higher cocoa content than milk chocolate. But there has been limited research into the link between eating chocolate and the occurrence of AF.
“Despite the fact that most of the chocolate consumed by the study participants likely had relatively low concentrations of potentially protective ingredients, we still observed a significant association between eating chocolate and a lower risk of AF — suggesting that even small amounts of cocoa consumption can have a positive health impact,” said lead researcher Elizabeth Mostofsky in a press release.
But before you dive in and indulge your sweet tooth, take heed of Mostofsky’s words of caution.
“Eating excessive amounts of chocolate is not recommended because many chocolate products are high in calories from sugar and fat and could lead to weight gain and other metabolic problems,” she said. “But moderate intake of chocolate with high cocoa content may be a healthy choice.”
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