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Chocolate consumption may lower heart disease risk

Chocolate consumption may lower heart disease risk

It turns out, indulging in moderate amounts of the treat is associated with a lower risk of a common type of irregular heartbeat that can lead to risky conditions, according to a new study.

The researchers, led by Elizabeth Mostofsky, an epidemiologist who studies risk factors for cardiovascular disease at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, weren't the first to look for evidence that chocolate might prevent some cases of the risky heart rhythm, called atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, is a condition in which the upper two chambers of the heart, known as the atria, do not beat at the same pace as the lower two chambers of the heart.

A new study claims chocolate can reduce the risk of a risky heart rhythm that can lead to major health issues such as stroke, dementia and heart failure.

According to their reported diets at the beginning, those who ate around 30 grams of chocolate per week had a 17% less chance to be diagnosed at the end of study.

However, the team noted that the study was "observational" and can not prove that chocolate prevents AF.

The strongest association was found among men eating between two and six portions of chocolate a week - with a portion classified as 30g, or a small bar.

"It's very likely - if I had to bet - that these people were more physically active", said Lichtenstein, who was not involved in the new study.

Research was conducted from 1993 to 1997 on around 55,000 people between the ages of 50 and 64 in Denmark.

This study is not the final word on how chocolate consumption may influence heart health. At the time, they completed detailed questionnaires on the foods they ate and how often they ate them.

Drilling through the data accumulated for the participants in the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Heath Study, the researchers uncovered 3,346 cases of AF over a 13-and-a-half year period. But there is only limited research on the association between consuming chocolate and the occurrence of AF, which affects 2.7 to 6.1 million Americans and is linked with higher risk of stroke, heart failure, cognitive decline, dementia, and death.

Globally 33 million people are affected by atrial fibrillation, with 1 in 4 adults developing it at some point in their life span. They may limit the inflammatory process in the body, reducing the stickiness of the blood and leading to less scarring of connective tissue.

The strongest association for women seemed to be 1 weekly serving of chocolate (21 per cent lower risk), while for men, it was 2 to 6 weekly servings (23 per cent lower risk). Raw cocoa beans rich in anti-oxidants like flavanols comprise dark chocolate. Now, researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Denmark suggest the rich cocoa candy could also protect our heart health by decreasing the risk of irregular heartbeat. Looking at the study data, she noted that "it appears that people who do regularly consume chocolate are also those patients who had less health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure".

A linked editorial also questions whether the results could be applied "outside of the study population". There is some respite for all those who love chocolate.

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