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Study finds chocolate may decrease risk of irregular heartbeat

25 May 2017

The study, published in the scientific journal Heart, defines the optimal consumption rate at one serving a week for women, and two to six for men, based on the strongest associations they found with decreased risk of fibrillation.

With as many as 6.1 million Americans estimated to be suffering from AFib, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the study's lead author, Elizabeth Mostofsky of Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, told Reuters that the research proves eating moderate amounts of chocolate could be beneficial for people suffering from the ailment.

Patients with atrial fibrillation have higher rates of heart failure, hospitalisation, stroke and cognitive impairment.

Participants who ate one to three one-ounce (28.35 grams) servings a month had a 10-percent lower rate of AF than those who hardly did. One weekly serving lowered the risk by 21 per cent for women but risk fell 23 per cent for men who ate it two to six times a week.

They also said flavanoids - natural antioxidants found in cocoa - ward off heart conditions by reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation.

There's delicious news for chocolate lovers: New research suggests the sweet might help keep a common and risky form of irregular heartbeat at bay. The men and women were between 50 and 64 years old when it began, and they provided information about their diets when they entered the study between 1993 and 1997.

Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate. "But moderate intake of chocolate with high cocoa content may be a healthy choice", Mostofsky said.

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Eating more dark chocolate was also linked to lower body mass index (BMI), waist to hip ratio, systolic blood pressure, and inflammatory proteins.

However, doctors from the Duke Centre for Atrial Fibrillation in North Carolina have urged caution, highlighting that the chocolate eaters in the study were healthier and more highly educated - factors associated with better general health - which might have influenced the findings.

"As these other health issues are known to predispose people to atrial fibrillation, it is hard to say whether eating chocolate was protective or if this population is generally less predisposed to irregular rhythms", Bond said.

Right on the heels of Tuesday's overblown news that "even one glass of alcohol a day raises your breast cancer risk" comes another series of diet-related headlines-this time on another foodstuff guaranteed to garner publicity: chocolate. They also warn chocolate lovers not to take it too far either.

A serving was classified as one ounce [30g] but the type of chocolate eaten wasn't recorded. The entire study cohort was asked to estimate the size and frequency of chocolate consumption, with individuals then ranked and correlated against AF case frequency.

The team, which tracked 55,000 people in Denmark for 13 years, did not look at whether the participants were eating milk or dark chocolate, which contains more cocoa. How rich in cocoa a chocolate product is can greatly vary, so it is hard to draw general conclusions from this study.

Study finds chocolate may decrease risk of irregular heartbeat