Eating chocolate lowers difficult-to-treat heart condition

I write often about the benefits of dark chocolate for your heart and your brain. Studies show it protects against heart disease, dementia and stroke. Plus, new research reveals that chocolate also helps with one very specific, difficult-to-treat heart problem.

For this new study, U.S. researchers followed 55,000 Danish men and women ages 50 to 64 for an average of 13.5 years.

Data analysis showed that regular consumption of chocolate may help with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots. Atrial fibrillation also increases the risk of cognitive impairment, heart failure and strokes. Between 2.7 and 6.1 million Americans suffer from it.

Overall, the researchers found that people who consumed chocolate at least once per month had a 10 to 20 percent lower risk of atrial fibrillation.

Specifically, women who ate just one ounce of chocolate per week experienced a 21 percent lower risk of atrial fibrillation compared to those who ate less chocolate. Men who ate two to six one-ounce portions weekly experienced a 23 percent lower risk compared to those who ate less.

People who consumed chocolate were also healthier in other ways, including lower rates of high blood pressure and Type II diabetes.

The researchers made sure to point out that participants living in Europe, where this study was done, typically consume darker chocolate with a higher cacao count. I always recommend consuming dark chocolate, without the added milk and sugar, that’s at least 80 percent cacao.

Researchers believe the flavonoids found in chocolate may be responsible for the anti-arrhythmic activity. These powerful compounds have well-known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, which may also help prevent the heart damage that leads to irregular heartbeats.

Chocolate garnering more attention in research circles

The researchers for the new study were from the Harvard School of Public Health and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Interestingly, I just received a letter from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston about a new clinical trial on 18,000 participants called COSMOS (Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study). They are taking the observations by their colleagues (or competitors) at Harvard a step further by conducting a clinical trial giving cocoa supplements.

Participants will also take a multivitamin supplement based on its ability to lower cancer risk in their earlier trial of health professionals. As I advised last month, multivitamin supplements are mostly useless. Yet mainstream medical researchers remain wedded to them. Apparently, they are experts in biostatistics ¾ but not human nutrition.

The Harvard letter from my old colleague, JoAnn Manson, M.D. invited me to participate in COSMOS by sending me the study supplements (or placebo) by mail. I declined because they require participants to limit intake of cocoa, vitamin D, carotenoids, and related dietary supplements. And I would never limit my intake of these key nutrients based on all the research we already know. Plus, if I ended up in the placebo group (which you would never know), I would really be missing out.

Do we really need to spend more tax dollars doing another study anyway? Researchers always say they “need more research,” even after they come up with a definitive finding.

The name of the study — COSMOS — makes me wonder how many research studies it will take before doctors finally start recommending supplementation to everyone? Perhaps the answer is “billions and billions?”

But on this matter, we don’t need more research, we need more chocolate!


“Eating chocolate may help prevent a fairly common heart problem,” Washington Post ( 5/27/2017