Chocolate may lower risk for common heart condition: Harvard study

Sweet Therapy Chocolate May Help Prevent Irregular Heartbeat

Consuming moderate amounts of chocolate was associated with significantly lower risk of being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF)-a common and risky type of irregular heartbeat-in a large study of men and women in Denmark led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and in Denmark.

"Atrial Fibrillation affects both men and women". In the United States, at least 2.7 million people have been diagnosed with it, according to the American Heart Association. The causes are not clear exactly, however, there are no cures at present and no obvious ways of prevention either.

In this case, instead of chocolate being bad, we learn it might be good: Researchers reviewing data from the medical records of people enrolled in the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Study found that those who self-reported at baseline eating chocolate a couple of times a month were less likely to have atrial fibrillation (AF) than those reporting eating chocolate less than once a month, over a 13-year timeframe.

A serving size was equal to one ounce - about 3 or 4 squares of chocolate. This, however, can be linked more to the possibility that these participant were probably a lot more active than those who consumed less chocolate. Information on heart disease risk factors, diet, and lifestyle was obtained when the participants were recruited to the study.

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All up, it was determined that those who ate one to three serves of chocolate per month had 10 percent fewer diagnoses of AF than those who only ate one serve per month.

There were 3,346 cases of AF among the study participants over a 13.5-year follow-up period. The strongest overall effects of chocolate consumption can be seen in men and women who eat an ounce of chocolate two to six times per week.

Eating up to six bars of chocolate a week could reduce the risk of a potentially fatal heart condition by nearly one quarter, a study by Harvard University suggests. While moderate consumption of chocolate was found to be associated with lower rates of heart failure, the positive effect vanished in people who ate it daily.

Interestingly, the study also shows that "participants with higher levels of chocolate intake were more likely to report a higher level of educational attainment".

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The researchers caution that they can't account for unmeasured factors, such as kidney disease and sleep apnea, that may influence the risk of atrial fibrillation.

A Harvard study in 2011 had more sweet news as it showed chocolate can help lower blood pressure.

Lastly, cocoa solid levels vary in different parts of the world, so the findings might not apply in countries with lower levels, they add.

Harvard researchers have found consuming moderate amounts of chocolate may lower the risk of atrial fibrillation, or AF, a common type of irregular heartbeat.

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If anything, the opposite may be true: regularly overindulging in chocolate could increase your blood pressure and diabetes risk, which could eventually trigger the symptoms of atrial fibrillation.

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