Chocolate may be able to mend your heart — literally. A study, published in the journal Heart, found that eating chocolate could help prevent atrial fibrillation (AFib), which causes an irregular heartbeat.
Adults who ate dark chocolate, or products that contained cocoa, one to three times a month were 10 to 20 percent less likely to develop AFib than those who rarely ate chocolate, the study found.
Researchers examined data on the diets of more than 55,500 people in Denmark. The volunteers, who were both men and women, ranged in age from 50 to 64 years old. They submitted information on their eating habits when they first entered the study between 1993 and 1997.
The researchers looked at data from Denmark’s national health register to find which participants were diagnosed with AFib since the study started. Nearly 3,350 people were diagnosed with the heart condition over an average period of 13.5 years.
The volunteers in the study who ate about one ounce of chocolate a week were 17 percent less likely to develop AFib. And people who ate two to six ounces of chocolate a week were 20 percent less likely to be diagnosed with AFib by the end of the study.
For women, just one serving of chocolate a week was enough to reduce their chances of developing AFib. However, the men in the study who consumed between two and six ounces of chocolate a week had about a 20 percent less chance of developing AFib.
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“What we’re saying here is that moderate chocolate consumption may be part of a healthy diet,” said study author Elizabeth Mostofsky, an epidemiology instructor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
For chocolate lovers, this may come as welcome news, but the researchers say to make sure to keep it in moderation.
“This is not carte blanche to eat large amounts of chocolate,” said Mostofsky. “Moderate amounts of dark chocolate as part of a healthy diet would be a good choice.”
Previous research has shown other foods can also help prevent heart disease. In 2016, a study found that the Mediterranean diet — which consists mostly of fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meat, whole grains and nuts — could reduce the risk of a heart attack.
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Danielle Tarasiuk is a multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles. Her work has been published on AllDay.com, Yahoo! Sports, KCET, and NPR-affiliate stations KPCC and KCRW. She’s a proud Sarah Lawrence College and USC Annenberg alumn.