Chocolate is one of the most popular foods in the world due to its pleasant taste. However, chocolate – or cocoa, to be precise – has several medical benefits as well. Chocolate had primarily been consumed for its health benefits before the European discovery of the Americas and, following steady research in recent years, has now once again attained an important status among consumers as a healthy food.
Consumption of chocolate has been linked with various benefits regarding heart health: A new study adds to the growing body of knowledge by claiming chocolate may help reduce the chances of atrial fibrillation in individuals who consumed it on a regular basis.
An Ounce of Chocolate Twice a Week, Keeps the Heart from Growing Weak
The study, called ‘Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Study,’ included more than 55,000 Danish adults recruited between 1993 and 1997. The study followed up with the participants over an average period of 13.5 years. The declared correlation between chocolate and atrial fibrillation rates takes into account the effect of other known causative agents for atrial fibrillation, such as consumption of alcohol, smoking, and obesity. About 3,300 participants in the study developed atrial fibrillation over the study period, with the ones who consumed an ounce of chocolate 2-6 times a week emerging as the most likely to benefit from it. According to the study, consuming an ounce of chocolate just once or twice per month has a protective effect statistically equivalent to 10-20% over consuming less than an ounce of chocolate per month on average.
Chocolate May Benefit, but Take it with a Pinch of Salt
Though the study seemingly presents conclusive evidence that chocolate consumption is beneficial in preventing atrial fibrillation, the results need to be paired with a number of qualifiers. The study was conducted in Denmark, one of the most prosperous and stable countries in the world. While chocolate may itself have physiological benefits against atrial fibrillation, particularly due to the presence of flavonoids, the lifestyle conditions that enabled the participants to consume chocolate regularly also need to be taken into account. The researchers were also quick to point out that though chocolate was the substance being indicated in the study, it is cocoa and not commercial chocolate products that protects against atrial fibrillation.