For many of us, it is an indulgence. However, science is continuing to show that there are many health benefits to eating chocolate. Good quality, dark chocolate is actually very nutritious, and can help fight fatigue, anxiety and improve blood flow. Eating chocolate has also been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
Now a new study from Denmark suggests that a regular consumption of chocolate may help prevent the development of an irregular heartbeat, called atrial fibrillation. This condition is where the heart’s two upper chambers do not beat at the same pace as the heart’s lower chambers, resulting in an irregular heartbeat.
The study looked at data collected from more than 55, 000 adults between the ages of 50 and 64. Published in the journal Heart, researchers found that adults in the study who ate chocolate at least once a month had rates of atrial fibrillation that were 10 to 20 per cent lower than those who at chocolate less than once a month.
Lead author of the study, Elizabeth Mostofsky said that the study found that the strongest overall effects were seen in men and women who ate 1 ounce (approximately 28 grams) of chocolate, two to six times per week.
Though the exact reason for this is unknown, researchers believe the key may lie in the compounds in chocolate called “flavonoids”. These compounds have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Mostofsky said that these properties may limit the inflammatory process in the body, reducing the stickiness of the blood and therefore leading to less scarring of the connective tissue. All of these factors may help prevent the electrical remodelling of the heart that leads to atrial fibrillation, she explained.
Scientists were keen to advise that consumers should choose a good quality chocolate with a high cocoa content, and low sugar content.