Great news for men that love chocolate – experts say tucking into the sweet treat six times a week can prevent an irregular heartbeat.
But for women, sadly it’s only one chocolate bar a week.
A team from Harvard Medical School came to their conclusion after tracking a group of over 55,000 people in Denmark for around 13 years, who were participating in the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Heath Study.
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. Each person had to fill in a questionnaire diet and lifestyle too.
Within the test group there were 3,346 cases of abnormal heart rhythm, known as atrial fibrillation (AF) which causes the heart to beat fast and irregularly and increases the risk of stroke and early death, diagnosed over the follow-up period.
It was found that regardless of gender, eating 1oz of chocolate a week reduced the risk of AF by 17 per cent. Further findings showed that men who ate the treat six times a week had a 20 per cent lower risk. However those that ate extra didn’t reap more awards, and in fact saw their lowered risk increase slightly, to 16 per cent.
The team suggest that the flavanoids in chocolate can stave off the condition by reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation. They also noted chocolate has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiplatelet properties.
"Despite the fact that most of the chocolate consumed by the study participants likely had relatively low concentrations of potentially protective ingredients, we still observed a significant association between eating chocolate and a lower risk of AF - suggesting that even small amounts of cocoa consumption can have a positive health impact," author Elizabeth Mostofsky said.
“Eating excessive amounts of chocolate is not recommended because many chocolate products are high in calories from sugar and fat and could lead to weight gain and other metabolic problems. But moderate intake of chocolate with high cocoa content may be a healthy choice."
The study is published in the BMJ’s Heart journal.
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