Who doesn’t love chocolates? A new study makes a strong case for America’s favorite treat by finding that regular chocolate consumption may reduce the risk of developing atrial fibrillation, or irregularities in heart rhythm.

 The benefits, shown across both men and women, were linked most to women who had a weekly serving compared to two to six weekly servings for men.

But how does chocolate really affect overall health and wellness? Here are a few findings.

Heart Health

In the new study that tracked participants for 13 and a half years, more than 3,300 atrial fibrillation cases occurred in the subjects. The rate was seen to be 10 percent less for people taking up to three servings of chocolate a month, versus those who had less than one serving.

The risk of so-called heart flutter, too, was slashed by 17 percent in those who consumed a serving each week, while the risk was lowered by 20 percent in people taking two to six servings a week.

Research published in the journal BMJ also showed that chocolate consumption helped lower the risk for heart disease by one-third.

“Based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders,” the authors wrote in the study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in France.

In a Canadian study involving more than 44,000 individuals, chocolate intake was tied to 22 percent less likelihood of suffering a stroke than those who did not. Stroke patients who regularly had chocolate, too, were 46 percent less likely to die as a result.

How about cholesterol? A separate study demonstrated that chocolate intake might help decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as the “bad fats.” In investigating whether chocolate bars with plant sterols and cocoa flavanols affected cholesterol levels, the authors saw that as part of a low-fat diet, consuming PS and CF-containing bars may support cardiovascular wellness through lowering cholesterol and improving blood pressure.

Promoting Satiety And Healthy Blood Glucose Levels

Since it’s fiber-rich, dark chocolate may help one feel full and therefore lead to less eating. Dr. David Katz of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center told Huffington Post that it might benefit people to take a chocolate bite than snack on “11 other things first.”

A small study conducted at the University of Copenhagen supports this claim, even findings that dark chocolate may even slash one’s cravings for sweet as well as salty and fatty foods.

Chocolate may even fight diabetes. A small Italian study, for instance, found that regular consumption may increase insulin sensitivity and therefore reduce diabetes risk.

Mood, Blood Flow, And Other Protections

One also feels much better upon eating chocolate — not just because of satisfying one’s sweet tooth, but because enjoyment of food is part of enjoying life. Chocolate snackers, for one, reported feeling less stressed in their lives.

In addition, cocoa boasts of anti-clotting and blood-thinning properties that work similarly with aspirin, according to HuffPost Healthy Living's wellness editor, Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald. This can improve one’s blood flow and circulation, and the improved blood flow including to the brain had been seen in a small 2011 study to give vision a boost via better blood flow to the retina.

Chocolate has been intrigued as a cause of breakouts, but science actually vouches for it as a skin protectant. Dark chocolate’s antioxidants, called flavonoids, provide UV damage protection when one is out gallivanting under the sun.

Most, if not all, of these benefits are centered on dark chocolate intake. One should remain wary of commercial chocolate products that are milk-based and contain lots of sugar, artificial flavors, and preservatives, which could harm the heart and body in the long run.

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