A study a few weeks ago out of Denmark concluded that people who eat some chocolate regularly are at lower risk of developing atrial fibrillation (AF), that cardiac rhythm abnormality that left untreated leads to a significantly higher risk of stroke from blood clots.
And even when treated appropriately, AF causes a lot of problems because the anti-clotting drugs needed to lower the risk of stroke come with their own set of concerns.
But according to this study, people who ate chocolate as little as 1 to 3 times per month had a statistically significant lower risk of AF than people who ate chocolate less than once a month.
Clearly, there are many possible explanations for this difference that have nothing to do with the chocolate per se – perhaps chocolate eaters are happier (never mind perhaps; we definitely are), or they exercise more, or they drink more alcohol, or they’re richer, etc etc.
In other words, this is a typical observational study that cannot come up with a specific cause for the effect they have found, simply a co-relation between two factors.
However, as someone who grew up regularly stealing his dad’s hidden chocolate stash, a habit that I believe has been passed on to both my sons (amazing how quickly my chocolate hoard seems to shrink when either of my sons is visiting), I prefer to believe that it’s the chocolate itself that produces this health benefit.
The emphasis in this study, however, should be on the word “some” because like anything else in life, too much chocolate turns out to be harmful rather than beneficial.