Employers, if you don’t provide chocolate in your pantry, here’s a reason to do so – consuming chocolate, in moderation, is actually good for your staff’s health.
According to study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and in Denmark, eating moderate amounts of chocolate (two to six ounces a week) can significantly lower the risk of being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF)—a common and dangerous type of irregular heartbeat.
The study included 55,502 men and women participating in the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Heath Study.
Researchers considered participants’ body mass index, blood pressure, and cholesterol, as well as health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease. They also collected data from questionnaires on their lifestyle and diet – including how much chocolate they consumed.
Over the 13.5-year follow-up, there were 3,346 cases of AF among the study participants as identified from the Danish National Patient Register.
Compared with those who ate a one-ounce serving of chocolate less than once per month, men and women who ate one to three servings per month had a 10% lower rate of AF.
Those who ate one serving per week had a 17% lower rate; and those who ate two to six servings per week had a 20% lower rate.
However, researchers pointed out that the benefit leveled off slightly with greater amounts of chocolate consumption. Those who ate one or more servings per day having a 16% lower AF rate.
“Despite the fact that most of the chocolate consumed by the study participants likely had relatively low concentrations of potentially protective ingredients, we still observed a significant association between eating chocolate and a lower risk of AF—suggesting that even small amounts of cocoa consumption can have a positive health impact,” said Elizabeth Mostofsky, instructor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard Chan School, a postdoctoral fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and lead author of the study.
“Eating excessive amounts of chocolate is not recommended because many chocolate products are high in calories from sugar and fat and could lead to weight gain and other metabolic problems. But moderate intake of chocolate with high cocoa content may be a healthy choice.”
While the results sounds sweet to chocolate lovers and candy companies, Mostofsky stressed “We haven’t received any money from candy makers. This isn’t meant to drive up chocolate sales or anything like that.”
Funding for the study came from grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the European Research Council, EU 7th Research Framework Program, and the Danish Cancer Society and the Danish Council for Strategic Research, among others.
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