There’s delicious news for chocolate lovers: New research suggests the sweet might help keep a common and dangerous form of irregular heartbeat at bay.
The study of more than 55,000 people in Denmark found that those who favored chocolate tended to have a lower risk of atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that raises stroke risk.
The study tracked people’s health for more than 13 years, over which time more than 3,300 cases of atrial fibrillation emerged.
The study wasn’t designed to prove cause and effect. However, compared with people who ate a 1-ounce serving of chocolate less than once a month, the risk of atrial fibrillation was 10 percent lower among those who ate one to three servings a month, 17 percent lower among those who ate one serving a week, and 20 percent lower among those who ate two to six servings of chocolate a week.
But the benefit then leveled off, with a 16 percent lower risk of atrial fibrillation among adults who ate one or more 1-ounce servings of chocolate a day.
“Our study adds to the accumulating evidence on the health benefits of moderate chocolate intake,” lead author Elizabeth Mostofsky, an instructor in epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a university news release.
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.”
However, he stressed that cardiovascular health relies on more than just chocolate intake. Factors such as regular aerobic exercise and other healthy behaviors “could be a benefit as well,” said Friedman, who is chief of heart failure services at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital in Valley Stream, N.Y.
According to the study authors, prior research has suggested that cocoa and cocoa-containing foods can benefit the heart. That’s because they contain high levels of flavanols, which may improve blood vessel function.