People eat chocolates to feel happy, but there are more benefits to consuming these delectable treats than just an emotional placebo. Researchers say that consuming moderate amounts can significantly lower the risk of atrial fibrillation (AF).
AF, as it is known, is a common and dangerous type of irregular heartbeat. In AF, the heart's two upper chambers do not beat at the same pace as the lower chambers, resulting in an irregular heart rhythm. This condition increases the risk of strokes, heart failure and cognitive impairment.
Elizabeth Mostofsky, lead author of the study published in the journal Heart, said, "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."
Live Science noted that researchers found that adults who ate chocolate at least once a month or more had up to 20 percent lower rates of AF than those who rarely consume the sweets. The strongest overall effects of chocolate consumption can be seen in men and women who eat an ounce of chocolate two to six times per week. This is equivalent to about three or four individual Dove Bar squares.
While the study does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between eating chocolate and lowered risk of atrial fibrillation, it is possible that compounds in chocolates -- flavonoids -- could play a role. These compounds are known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They may limit the stickiness of the blood and could therefore lead to less scarring of connective tissues, which then leads to lessening the possibility of AF.
Of course, the study also has limitations. However, because of the fact that 25 percent of adults can develop AF over the course of their lifetime, there is a need to identify other factors surrounding the ailment, including lifestyle factors, to lower the risk of the disease.