(RNN) - Eating chocolate may reduce the risk of an irregular heartbeat that can cause strokes and heart failure, researchers say.
Consuming moderate amounts of chocolate is associated with a significantly lower risk of a person having atrial fibrillation (AF), according to a new study published online in the journal "Heart."
About 2.7 million Americans are living with AF, the American Heart Association says.
“Eating excessive amounts of chocolate is not recommended, however, 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.”
Other studies suggest that dark chocolate - which has a higher cocoa content than milk chocolate - offers cardiovascular benefits. Researchers say that perhaps that is because of dark chocolate's high content of flavanols, which may promote healthy blood vessel function.
The study included 55,500 Danish men and women, 3,346 of whom had AF over a 13.5 year follow-up period.
Participants who ate one to three servings of chocolate each month, researchers said, had a 10 percent lower rate of AF than those who ate a one-ounce serving less than once monthly.
Those studied who ate one serving per week had a 17 percent lower rate, while those who ate between two and six servings per week had a 20 percent lower rate.
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