Health Check: Chocolate for heart health

New research published in the journal BMJ Heart suggests chocolate could lower the risk for a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation.

Could eating chocolate on a regular basis be good for your heart?

Americans consume nearly 3 billion pounds of chocolate a year. For many, it's a guilty pleasure. But what if your heart health depended on it?

"I mean, who wouldn't want to have more chocolate as a prescription?" said Dr. Antony Chu, a cardiologist at Rhode Island Hospital.

Well, new research published in the journal BMJ Heart suggests chocolate could lower your risk for a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation, or A-fib.

"It's almost like an electrical seizure, if you will," said Chu. "When patients have atrial fibrillation, the atria are activated electrically in a very chaotic manner and that forms a very abnormal or irregular heartbeat."

Which puts you at higher risk for stroke.

But a new study that analyzed a large database of more than 55,000 Danish people -- more than 3,300 who were diagnosed with A-fib -- found that more chocolate, over time, meant lower risk.

"There is a theory that it affects or has some anti-inflammatory benefits,” said Chu. “There are many conditions that affect the cardiovascular system that are thought to be inflammatory.”

Chu said there are couple of things to note.

"In our clinical practice, we can see that many of my patients have chocolate as a potential trigger for their atrial fibrillation" Chu said.

Most likely, he says because of the caffeine in the cocoa. And then, there's this:

"Not all chocolate is created equal," he noted.

"In Europe, the amount of cocoa is regulated and so their chocolate has at least 30 percent cocoa in all of their chocolate. In the U.S., the difference is a little bit more substantial in that the mild chocolate in the U.S. has 10 percent content of cocoa whereas our dark chocolate has about 35 percent."

Which means, he said, we would have to have dark chocolate specifically in the U.S.

Chu says if chocolate isn't a trigger for your A-fib it’s worth a try, if you’d like.

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