The study, published in the journal Heart, looked at data on about 55,000 people in Denmark who were between the ages of 50 and 64 years old. Researchers then linked their diet data to Denmark’s national health registries to see who was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (a-fib), an irregular heartbeat that increases the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Based on these data, approximately 3,346 cases of atrial fibrillation occurred in study participants over an average of 13.5 years. Those who ate one serving of chocolate (about 1 ounce per week) were 17% less likely to be diagnosed with a-fib by the end of the study compared to participants who reported eating chocolate less than once per month.
Test subjects who ate 2 to 6 ounces per week were less likely to be diagnosed with the condition, while those who ate more than an ounce per day were 16% less likely to have it.
For women, the biggest risk reduction was associated with eating one serving of chocolate per week. For men, the biggest risk reduction was linked to consuming 2 to 6 servings per week.
“I think our message here is that moderate chocolate intake as part of a healthy diet is an option,” said Elizabeth Mostofsky of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and lead author of the study.
Mostofsky said that while the study does not definitively confirm that chocolate prevents a-fib, eating cocoa and cocoa-containing foods may help prevent heart problems because they contain a high volume of flavanols, which are compounds believed to have anti-inflammatory, blood vessel-relaxing and anti-oxidant properties.
Source: CBS News