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Chocolate Health Benefits: Harvard-Led Study Supports Heart Benefits of Cocoa Consumption

A photo of several pieces of chocolate as seen at the 14th Salun du Chocolate (Paris Chocolate Show) in Paris back in 2008.
A photo of several pieces of chocolate as seen at the 14th Salun du Chocolate (Paris Chocolate Show) in Paris back in 2008. |

New research suggests that moderate consumption of chocolate is associated with a significantly lower risk of getting diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, which is a type of irregular heartbeat condition.

The study was conducted by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and several scientists in Denmark, and it involved more than 55,000 male and female participants, who were a part of the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Study. These participants were aged 50–63 years, and were recruited in Denmark between 1993 and 1997.

Researchers tracked the body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol and specific health conditions of the participants over the course of 13.5 years. Their chocolate consumption was also compared against the rate of atrial fibrillation.

The results of the research were published in May in the journal Heart, and the study essentially showed that moderate intake of chocolate has an inverse correlation to the rate of atrial fibrillation.

The research determined that participants who consumed one to three servings of chocolate every month had a 10 percent lower rate of atrial fibrillation. Those who ate only a single serving a week showed a lower rate of 17 percent. As for those who consumed two to six servings of chocolate, they had a 20 percent lower rate of atrial fibrillation. The results of the study were essentially the same for males and females.

"Our study adds to the accumulating evidence on the health benefits of moderate chocolate intake and highlights the importance of behavioral factors for potentially lowering the risk of arrhythmias," Elizabeth Mostofsky, the lead author of the research, said, according to the Harvard Gazette. She is also an instructor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Chan School.

Although research showed that small amounts of consumption of chocolate has a positive health impact in the human body, Mostofsky also warned about eating chocolates in large amounts.

"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," Mostofsky said.

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