CAMBRIDGE (CBS) – Looking for an excuse to eat chocolate?

There’s good news out of Harvard University, where researchers say including chocolate in your diet could keep your heart healthy.

A study involving more than 55,000 people in Denmark found that those who ate moderate amounts of chocolate were at a lower risk for being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation – a dangerous type of irregular heartbeat that can lead to stroke, heart failure, dementia and death.

Men who love chocolate will be happier than women about the results of this study. The irregular heartbeat risk went down as much as 20 percent for men who ate two to six one-ounce servings per week, while women saw their best results when only eating one serving of chocolate per week.

(Image: iStockphoto)

Lead study author Elizabeth Mostofsky concluded there’s 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.”

Read The Full Study [PDF]

Researchers noted previous studies have found that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can promote healthy blood vessels. Just don’t take it too far.

“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,” Mostofsky said in a statement. “But moderate intake of chocolate with high cocoa content may be a healthy choice.”

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