Another reason to eat chocolate

Experts at Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts found a regular treat slashes our risk of developing an abnormal heart rhythm by more than a fifth

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.

Up to 500,000 people in Britain - around a third of sufferers - are unaware they have the condition, which dramatically increases the risk of stroke.

The separate figures for men and women show men seemed to have the lowest risk if they ate chocolate two to six times a week, and women if they ate it once a week.

"These people were followed over time", explains Mostofsky.

"One in four of us will develop atrial fibrillation by the age of 80". The study published online today in the journal Heart. Dark chocolate also contains high levels of an alkaloid called theobromine which help in relaxing and stimulating.

Readers deserve to know that actually, while the research may be intriguing-and possibly worthy of further exploration-this study and so many other diet studies like it just aren't conclusive of anything. There is, unfortunately, no quick fix, she commented.

Given that regular consumption of chocolate, in particular, dark chocolate, has been related to improvements in various heart health indicators, the researchers wanted to see if it might also be connected with a lower atrial fibrillation rate. In men, two to six weekly servings decreased the risk by as much as 23 percent. The relationship was seen strongest in women who consumed one serving per week.

It was found that regardless of gender, eating 1oz of chocolate a week reduced the risk of AF by 17 per cent.

For instance, the accompanying editorial points out that the chocolate eaters in the study "had less hypertension, less diabetes and lower blood pressure". For women, eating chocolate once a week led to the highest reduction, of 21 percent. "Especially given the importance of identifying effective prevention strategies for [atrial fibrillation]".

Indeed, lots of researchers are involved in nailing down the potential health benefits of cocoa.

"But moderate intake of chocolate with high cocoa content may be a healthy choice".

Chocolate may not have to be such a guilty pleasure anymore.

Following on from previous studies which have linked chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, to good heart health, a team of worldwide experts set out to asses the link between chocolate consumption and atrial fibrillation or flutter. Here's NPR's Allison Aubrey. Now comes a new study that adds an interesting twist.

This is according to DR. Jonathan Piccini and Dr. Sean Pokorney from the Duke University Medical Center.

An irregular heart rhythm, often with features of a very fast heart rate is referred to as atrial fibrillation.

AUBREY: Around the globe, it affects about 33 million people. The type of chocolate consumed was not asked from them. Founded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, the School is recognized as America's oldest professional training program in public health. It was noted that 3346 new cases of atrial fibrillation were diagnosed. In addition, the milk-thought to have a role in the favorable associations found between chocolate and heart health, may lower the beneficial compound levels in chocolate. However, the associations between higher consumption of chocolate and lower risk of heart flutter remained even after adjusting for possible influential factors. Lichtenstein was not involved in the study.

SHERMAN: You don't have to eat chocolate every day to be able to get what is a clinically significant finding. They may also counteract the clots that could form when an irregular heartbeat allows blood to pool up in the heart.

AUBREY: And he says a small 1 ounce sized serving is all you need.

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