Researchers found a new health benefit to chocolate that could prevent strokes

Is chocolate good or bad for you? This debate rages on, but a recent medical study may definitely comes down on the “pro” side — and we like the sound of it. Strokes, dementia, heart failure, and early death may all be prevented by this tasty little treat: cocoa.

We may all think that chocolate revs you up, but it turns out, it can actually have a beneficial effect in the opposite direction. Cocoa can reduce the incidence of a dangerous type of heart murmur called atrial fibrillation, which can lead to stroke.

Elizabeth Mostofsky, head of the team that conducted the study through Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explains:

"The rate of atrial fibrillation was 20 percent lower for people consuming two to six servings per week."

For the study, more than 160,000 Danish people’s lifestyles, exercise habits, diets, and — of course — how much cocoa they consumed, were examined for four years.

Why the extended time? To help ensure everyone who got atrial fibrillation was identified:

"[the researchers]were able to identify all of the diagnoses of atrial fibrillation," explains Mostofsky.

However, this isn’t the first time that researchers have looked into chocolate saving the day. Two previous studies could not find a connection after examining over 40,000 Americans. Determined, Motosfsky and her team found a new outcome. The difference? Danish chocolate includes higher amounts of cocoa.

But how can cocoa treat AF?

According to the LA Times:

"Chocolate contains flavanols that can prevent the kind of inflammation that can lead to tissue damage. They may also counteract the clots that could form when an irregular heartbeat allows blood to pool up in the heart."

Questionnaires from participants in the 1990s found 3,346 cases of AF among the 55,000 participants. Those who ate chocolate one to three times a month were less likely to develop AF. The more chocolate they ate, the less at risk they were.

Chocolate diets anyone?

Chocolate isn’t the cure-all for atrial fibrillation, of course. AF puts millions of people at risk. Depending on a tasty treat rather than seeing a doctor is obviously a no-no. Plus, some varieties of the sweet also contains high sugar, fat, and calories.

Nevertheless, Mostofsky says:

"Moderate intake of chocolate with high cocoa content may be a healthy choice."

It’s the doctor’s orders, and we’ll  take it.

Researchers are trying to figure out the health benefits of cocoa. Scientists are wondering if a “cocoa pill” could be in our very near future, and possibly our medicine cabinets!

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