Published: Thu, May 25, 2017
Health Care | By Gwendolyn Kim

Chocolates may lower 'heart flutter' risk, claims study

Chocolates may lower 'heart flutter' risk, claims study

Abnormal heart rhythm, known as atrial fibrillation, affects up to 900,000 patients in England and causes the heart to beat very fast and irregularly, greatly increasing the risk of stroke and early death. This population included 29,100 women and 26,400 men aged between 50 and 64, who took part in the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Study.

Briefly: In those 13.5 years, after adjusting for heart disease factors, eaters of 1 to 3 servings of chocolate a month had 10 percent less newly diagnosed heart flutters than their abstaining peers (less than 1 serving a month).

Those who ate one serving of chocolate a week benefited from a 17 per cent lower risk of atrial fibrillation, and those who increased this to 2-6 weekly servings benefited from a 20 per cent lower risk. For men, the strongest association was seen in those who ate two to six 1-ounce servings of chocolate weekly.

"[Researchers] note a number of limitations in the Danish study group: the participants were nearly exclusively white; socioeconomic levels, which may affect health status, were not tracked; and the chocolate consumers had lower levels of other risk factors including hypertension and diabetes".

Chocolate tastes so good many people assume it must be a myth that it can be good for your health. The relationship was seen strongest in women who consumed one serving per week.

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on atrial fibrillation.

Previous studies have suggested that cocoa and cocoa-containing foods-in particular, dark chocolate, which has a higher cocoa content than milk chocolate-confer cardiovascular benefits, perhaps due to their high content of flavanols, which may promote healthy blood vessel function.

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"Despite the fact that most of the chocolate consumed in our sample probably contained relatively low concentrations of the potentially protective ingredients, we still observed a robust statistically significant association", the researchers said in a BMJ statement.

Men who love chocolate will be happier than women about the results of this study. However, they were not asked to specify the type of chocolate they have consumed.

Health stories that suggest eating or drinking something we like, whether it's chocolate or wine, are always popular.

The participants' body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol were measured, and health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease were all looked at.

"If you eat chocolate, keep your portions small and go for dark chocolate with the highest cocoa content".

A plausible interpretation of this study is not that eating chocolate prevents AF, but that people with AF (or associated risk factors) avoid eating chocolate, possibly on the advice of their doctor.

Past studies have found that eating chocolate - especially dark chocolate, which has more flavanols - is tied to better measures of heart health and decreased risk for certain conditions like heart attacks and heart failure, they add. Prior studies had shown that compounds in cocoa can suppress inflammation, which can help protect the heart.

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