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Chocolate can help to prevent irregular heartbeat

Copenhagen(May 24 2017): Eating chocolate has been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, and now a new study from Denmark suggests that regular consumption of the treat may help to prevent the development of atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat.

Researchers found that adults in the study who ate chocolate at least once a month — or more frequently than that — had rates of atrial fibrillation that were 10 to 20 percent lower than those who ate chocolate less than once a month, according to the findings published  in the journal Heart.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the heart’s two upper chambers, known as the atria, do not beat at the same pace as the heart’s two lower chambers, resulting in an irregular heartbeat. The condition increases a person’s risk of strokes, heart failure and cognitive impairment.

The study found that the strongest overall effects were seen in men and women who ate 1 ounce of chocolate, two to six times per week, said the lead author of the study, Elizabeth Mostofsky, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centerin Boston.

Between 2.7 million and 6.1 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, so it’s important to identify effective ways to help prevent the condition from developing, the researchers wrote in their study.

Two previous studies have looked at the connection between chocolate consumption and the risk of developing atrial fibrillation, but the results from both of those studies suggested that any association found may be due to chance.

Unlike those two earlier studies, whose participants were only men or only women, the new study included both men and women. And the new study also included adults who had been clinically diagnosed with atrial fibrillation rather than people who had self-reported the condition, as was the case with the previous studies.

All in all, the findings suggest that compared with some other snack choices, a moderate intake of chocolate may be a heart-healthy snack, Mostofsky told.  But people should choose chocolate with a higher cocoa content, which has more health benefits and protective compounds, she said.

The chocolate consumers in the study were also generally healthier, better educated and had lower rates of high blood pressure and diabetes than the people who didn’t eat chocolate, and all of these factors could lessen their odds for atrial fibrillation, wrote the editorial authors Dr. Jonathan Piccini and Dr. Sean Pokorney. Both doctors are cardiologists at the Duke Center for Atrial Fibrillation at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.

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