Your instincts were right: Chocolate is indeed the way to your heart. Or, at least to a normal heartbeat. A new study suggests regulating your ticker’s rhythm may require little more than getting a good, weekly dose of chocolate. No objections reported thus far.
Analysis of more than 55,000 Danes found that an annual intake of two to six ounces of chocolate correlated with a 20-percent reduction in atrial fibrillation (A-fib rates), Medical News Today reports. Dr. Elizabeth Mostofsky of the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Mass., was the lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Heart.
A-fib, or irregular heartbeats, affect at least 2.7 million Americans and can contribute to blood clots, dementia, heart failure, strokes, and early death. Yikes. As part of preventing A-fib, doctors recommend a “heart-healthy diet” that is low in cholesterol, salt, saturated fats and trans fats. And, drum roll please: with a decent level of chocolate.
Of course, the health benefits of chocolate have been touted for years. Research reported in 2016 by Medical News Today found that small, regular doses of chocolate could markedly reduce a person’s chances of heart disease. And doctors and nutritionists have known for ages that regular chocolate intake can help fight diabetes, lower your risk of stroke, improve your mood, suppress a cough, protect your skin, and even make you smarter (not like we needed anyone to tell us that).
Of course, there’s a difference between real chocolate and the sugar-loaded stuff loading the check-out lines of every convenience store and pharmacy. Cocoa beans are where all the health qualities sit—not in the milks, sugars, or other additives making up the candy bars and peanut-butter cups. Flavonoids in cocoa are rich in antioxidants, which help your body resist damage from free radicals. The rule of thumb is the darker the chocolate, the more antioxidants therein. Meanwhile, flavanols in cocoa are great for reducing blood pressure, lowering the stickiness of blood platelets, and reducing blood pressure.
For this study, subjects were recruited between 1993 and 1997. Their BMI was charted, along with their cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Questionnaires outlined participants’ overall health, which was then charted. Over the next 13.5 years, 3,346 cases of A-fib were identified.
Those test subjects who ate two to six ounces of chocolate each week had a fifth fewer cases of irregular heartbeats. Individuals who ate ounce of chocolate a week had a 17-percent lowered risk of A-fib.
So what’s an ounce of chocolate look like, exactly? Considering a Hershey’s bar is about an ounce, your weekly, heart-healthy allotment would be two bars a week.
That doesn’t sound half-bad! Just be sure to mind your moderation of those Baby Ruths.