Research Digest

Lab notes: Eating chocolate helps reduce risk of heart disease, says new study

A new study shows that moderate intake of chocolate as a snack is a good option to keep the heart healthy.

A new study has been added to the substantial body of medical literature that points to the very agreeable finding that chocolate is good for the heart. A large study from Denmark has now shown that higher levels of chocolate intake is associated with a reduced risk of abnormal heart rhythms.

The study was published in the peer reviewed journal Heart this week. It showed that higher levels of chocolate intake was associated with 11-20 percent lower rate of atrial fibrillation, which is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.

The researchers used data about diets collected for a long-term study from 55,502 people in Denmark between the ages of 50 and 64. The data had been collected between 1993 and 1997. This diet data was linked to Denmark’s national health registeries to check which subjects were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. During the 14-year of follow-up, 3,346 cases of atrial fibrillation were diagnosed.

The results of the study showed that eating up to six ounces of chocolate a week was associated with lower risk of atrial fibrillation. Those who ate one to three ounce servings a month had a 10% lower relative risk of atrial fibrillation compared to those who ate no chocolate. Those who ate one serving a week had 17% reduced risk and those who ate two to six ounces a week had 20% reduced risk.

The authors of the study state that the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-platelet (that prevent clots in the blood) properties of cocoa may help improve heart function. The study also said that the higher flavonoid content of the dark chocolate as compared with milk chocolate may yield greater cardiovascular benefits. Therefore, moderate intake of chocolate as a snack is a good option, the lead author Elizabeth Mostofsky from Harvard T Chan School of Public Health told Reuters.

But this does not mean that people can should consume large quantities of chocolate in their diet have no risk of heart disease. The lead author, Mostofsky told The New York Times that having chocolate should not be seen as a quick fix. “You can’t have as much chocolate as you want and then ignore everything we know about healthy diet and physical activity,” she said.

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