Trending News Today: Chocolate Consumption May Lower Risk of Atrial Fibrillation

Top news of the day from across the healthcare landscape.

A botulism outbreak in the Sacramento, CA, area left 1 man dead and sent 9 individuals to the hospital, according to The Washington Post. The outbreak is linked to contaminated nacho cheese dip that was sold in a California gas station. Botulism can cause paralysis, difficulty breathing, and even death, with survivors often needing to spend weeks or months hooked up to ventilators. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of foodborne botulism typically arise between 12 and 36 hours after consuming the toxin, but the time can range from a few hours to several days. Receiving early treatment increases the chance of survival and reduces the risk of complications, the Post reported.

Consuming chocolate 1 to 3 times per month may decrease the risk of atrial fibrillation, according to a recent analysis. The investigators used data collected for a long-term study of 55,502 individuals in Denmark, aged 50 to 64 years. Patients disclosed information regarding their diets upon entering the study between 1993 and 1997, according to Reuters. The diet data were then linked to Denmark’s national health registries to identify who was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. The results showed that approximately 3346 cases of atrial fibrillation occurred over an average of 13.5 years. Study participants who consumed 1 serving—–equal to approximately 1 ounce or 28.35 grams––of chocolate per week, were 17% less likely to be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation by the end of the study compared with individuals who consumed chocolate less than once per month. Additionally, individuals who consumed 2 to 6 ounces per week were 20% less likely to be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, while those who ate more than 1 ounce per day were 16% less likely, Reuters reported. Limitations to the study included the inability to account for unmeasured factors, such as kidney disease and sleep apnea, which could influence the risk of the condition. Furthermore, the investigators did not have data on the type of chocolate or the amount of cocoa flavanols that the participants ate, and their diets may have changed over the 14 years of data collection. The authors noted that although the findings cannot say for certain that it was the chocolate that prevented atrial fibrillation, it does suggest that consuming cocoa and cocoa-containing foods may help heart health.

In an effort to curb the opioid epidemic, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called on his staff Tuesday examine a more forceful approach, The Washington Post reported. This includes requiring physicians to be trained and ensuring that patients are not prescribed opioids for unnecessarily extended periods of time that increases the risk of addition. “Opioid prescriptions should be written only for appropriate patients and for appropriate durations,” Gottlieb said in an interview, as reported by the Post. “No more 30-day supplies for tooth extractions [or uncomplicated hernia repairs].” The commissioner said that addressing the opioid problem is his first priority, and a first step in boosting the agency’s role was the creation of the Opioid Policy Steering Committee comprised of senior FDA officials.