At last there is really good news for chocoholics: eating up to six bars of chocolate a week could reduce the risk of a potentially fatal heart condition by almost one quarter, a study by Harvard University suggests.
The research on more than 50,000 people found strong links between regularly eating the treat and a reduced risk of suffering a heart flutter.
The strongest association was found among men eating between two and six portions of chocolate a week – with a portion classfied as 30g, or a small bar. Those doing so had a 23% lower risk of developing atrial fibrillation, compared with those avoiding such treats.
Among women, the effect was linked to eating just one portion a week, which related to a 21% lower risk.
More than 1.5 million people in the UK suffer from atrial fibrillation. The condition doubles the risk of dying from other cardiac conditions, including stroke, heart attacks and heart failure. It occurs when electrical impulses in the heart become jumbled, so that blood is pumped less effectively.
Chocolate has previously been linked to other aspects of cardiac health. It is thought it may have an anti-inflammatory effect, because it is high in flavonoids.
On the other hand, chocoholics should take the new findings with a dose of cynicism.
This is because, according to Dr Gavin Sandercock, reader in clinical physiology at the University of Essex, the group eating the least chocolate – less than one portion a month – were far less healthy than all the others, making comparisons misleading.
“They had the highest blood pressure, were most likely to have hypertension, most likely to have high cholesterol and were twice as likely to already have heart disease,” he said.
“They were fatter than all the other groups despite eating the least calories overall. In short, they were the unhealthiest group in the whole study which means that almost any other group will seem healthier than them.”
The study’s gender difference could be explained by the fact that the average man is able to consume more daily calories without putting on weight. – The Daily Telegraph