Chocolate tied to decreased risk of irregular heart rhythm

By Andrew M. Seaman | Reuters

Eating a small amount of chocolate every week or so may decrease the risk of a common and serious type of irregular heart rhythm, according to a new study of people in Denmark.

People who ate chocolate one to three times per month were about 10 percent less likely to be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation than those who ate the sweet treat less than once a month, researchers found.

“As part of a healthy diet, moderate intake of chocolate is a healthy snack choice,” said lead author Elizabeth Mostofsky, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

The study cannot say for certain that it was the chocolate that prevented atrial fibrillation, however.

Mostofsky and colleagues write in the journal Heart that eating cocoa and cocoa-containing foods may help heart health because they have a high volume of flavanols, which are compounds that are believed to have anti-inflammatory, blood vessel-relaxing and anti-oxidant properties.

Past studies have that found eating chocolate – especially dark chocolate, which has more flavanols – is tied to better measures of heart health and decreased risk for certain conditions like heart attacks and heart failure, they add.

There isn’t as much research on whether chocolate is also linked to a lower risk of atrial fibrillation, which occurs when the upper chamber of the heart beats irregularly.

At least 2.7 million people in the U.S. have atrial fibrillation, which increases their risk for blood clots and resulting strokes, heart failure and other complications, according to the American Heart Association.

For the new analysis, the researchers used data collected for a long-term study of 55,502 people in Denmark. The men and women were between 50 and 64 years old when it began, and they provided information about their diets when they entered the study between 1993 and 1997.

The researchers then linked that diet data to Denmark’s national health registries to see who was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

Overall, about 3,346 cases of atrial fibrillation occurred over an average of 13.5 years.

Based on their diets at the beginning of the study period, people who ate one serving, about 1 ounce (28.35 grams), of chocolate per week were 17 percent less likely to be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation by the end of the study than people who reported eating chocolate less than once a month.

Similarly, those who ate 2 to 6 ounces per week were 20 percent less likely to be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation while those who ate more than an ounce of chocolate a day were 16 percent less likely to have the condition.

Among women, the biggest risk reduction was tied to eating one serving of chocolate per week. For men, the biggest reduction came with eating two to six servings per week.

“I think our message here is that moderate chocolate intake as part of a healthy diet is an option,” Mostofsky told Reuters Health.

The researchers caution that they can’t account for unmeasured factors, such as kidney disease and sleep apnea, that may influence the risk of atrial fibrillation. They also didn’t have data on the type of chocolate or the amount of flavanols participants ate. Their diets may have also changed over the nearly 14 years of data collection.

The data also suggests the participants who ate the most chocolate consumed more calories but had a lower body mass index – a measure of weight in relation to height – than people who ate the least chocolate, noted Alice Lichtenstein, director and senior scientist at the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston.

“It’s very likely – if I had to bet – that these people were more physically active,” said Lichtenstein, who was not involved in the new study.

She said people likely can’t get around the fact that they need to have a healthy diet, be physically active and not smoke to optimize their health.

“There is no quick fix,” she told Reuters Health.

Drs. Sean Pokorney and Jonathan Piccini write in an accompanying editorial that the study’s findings are interesting and warrant further consideration despite their limitations.

“A double-blind randomized controlled trial is needed to evaluate the true efficacy of chocolate for the prevention of (atrial fibrillation) and such a trial would need to incorporate quantified doses of cocoa,” write Pokorney and Piccini, of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.

MUST READ: Warning to parents to mind their children online as “Blue Whale Suicide Game” takes hold on social media

Fears are growing across social media this week after the chilling challenge to mostly teenagers known as the “Blue Whale Game” takes hold.

The so-called suicide game sees a group administrator “challenge” participants to out-do each other by giving them challenges for a total of 50 days.


The challenges start off harmless such as “staying up late”, or “watching a horror movie by yourself” – but they soon to much more sinister and disturbing challenges.

Participants are told to self-harm and post images on social media. Other sinister challenges are to go missing for 72 hours and not tell anyone, including your family where you are. You have to leave your mobile phone and leave no note.

The worst of all, with reports of multiple deaths in America and even reports of attempts in the UK is as the 50 days come to a close, participants are “challenged” to take their own life by suicide.

Police in America and the UK have advised parents to understand fully the dangers of this so-called game and to advise their children immediately on steering well clear of any participation in the game.

It’s called “Blue Whale” because the aim is to have someone so incapacitated that they resemble a beached whale who dies from being stuck on a beach.

Authorities have advised parents in particular to know what their children are up to online and to share the information about this horrific game with their friends.




Microwave mushrooms 'to keep their goodness', scientists say

Try microwaving your mushrooms to preserve the nutrients they contain, a study says


The healthiest way to cook mushrooms is to microwave or grill them to preserve their goodness, researchers say.

These cooking methods significantly increase levels of antioxidants which protect cells against diseases, but boiling and frying reduce them. 

A study, from Spain, looked at the properties of four different types of mushrooms before and after cooking.

Adding a little oil when grilling can even improve the nutritional value of the mushrooms.

What's in a mushroom?

Plenty, it turns out. They contain protein, including essential amino acids, fibre and lots of vitamins - such as B, C , D and E.

They are also low in calories and fat.

In this study, published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, researchers analysed how cooking methods altered white button, shiitake, oyster and king oyster mushrooms.

What's the problem with frying mushrooms?

Frying resulted in protein and carbohydrates being lost from the mushrooms, as well as antioxidant compounds. 

Antioxidants are vitamins and chemicals that play a key role in protecting the body against free radicals, which are linked to heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

What happens is that they disappear into the oil in the frying pan, reducing the goodness of the mushrooms.

So losing them isn't great news.

But, on the other hand, fried mushrooms do taste great with onions and garlic.

Grilled small mushroomsImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionHealth-giving antioxidants increase when mushrooms are grilled in a little oil

And boiling?

Boiling mushrooms also led to high levels of proteins and antioxidants being lost from the fungi.

The researchers put this down to the good stuff leaking out of the mushrooms into the water in the pan.

As a result, their nutritional value was reduced.

However, boiling did improve the glucans content of the mushrooms. They are found in fungi and may reduce the risk of heart disease.

What's so good about microwaving?

The best way to retain vitamins and nutrients when cooking vegetables is to use short cooking times.

It's also best to use as little liquid as possible.

This means using a microwave is a good method of cooking because fewer of the good things are lost - unlike boiling where they end up in the cooking water.

In this study, the researcher Irene Roncero-Ramos, from the Mushroom Technological Research Center of La Rioja, said: "When mushrooms were cooked by microwave or grill, the content of polyphenol and antioxidant activity increased significantly and there are no significant issues in nutritional value of the cooked mushrooms."

Bottle of olive oilImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Why is grilling with oil a good move?

Even though cooking in oil can cause nutrients to be lost, mushrooms grilled in a small amount of oil increased their antioxidant properties.

And when olive oil was used, fatty acids increased without a rise in calories content, the researchers said.

So should we all be eating more antioxidants?

Research from the past 10 years or so shows that eating antioxidant-rich foods can benefit our general health.

They are vitamins, minerals and other chemicals that help protect our cells - and are found in lots of different types of food, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, pulses and fish.

But they aren't the answer to everything.

A healthy, balanced diet containing a wide variety of foods in the right proportions is recommended.

According to NHS Choices, fruit and vegetables are a vital source of vitamins and minerals and should make up just over a third of the food we eat each day. 

That's because fruit and vegetables can help lower the risk of health issues such as high blood pressure, obesity and some cancers.

-BBC News


Must develop vaccine to prevent HIV/AIDS infection, says NACO

With the fear of HIV/AIDS cases resurfacing in future, the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) has said that a vaccine for the deadly infection is imperative.

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent HIV/AIDS and Indian scientists are actively engaged in developing vaccines against the virus. “Despite the programme advancement, vaccine will remain important. You never know when the disease can resurface. Vaccine itself is the most effective prevention tool,” Dr KS Sachdeva, Deputy Director General, NACO, said.

“Advocacy for HIV/AIDS is in the evolutionary stage. This is one disease where the social context is more relevant that the treatment context. Standing at an inflexion point, one can say that much has been achieved. We are close to almost eliminating HIV/AIDS,” he said.

In 2015, HIV/AIDS prevalence in India was an estimated 0.26 per cent of total population. India has almost 2.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS. India’s HIV/AIDS epidemic is however slowing down, with a 32 per cent decline in new HIV/AIDS infections (86,000 in 2015), and a 54 per cent decline in AIDS-related deaths between 2007 and 2015.

“We are moving towards elimination but we will have some bottlenecks along the way. Vaccine will be welcomed as that will be an additional tool. We should not miss that momentum just because money is decreasing,” said Nicole Seguy, Team Leader for Communicable Diseases at the World Health Organisation, India country office.

Recently, Indian scientists have identified a new antibody against HIV/AIDS subtype-C from Indian patients. This finding will help design vaccines against HIV/AIDS in the future. Scientists said that when given along with retroviral drugs, such a vaccine will be able to reduce viral load in patients. This will also help in passive immunotherapy — killing low amounts of virus in patients who may have been accidently infected with the virus.

The Indian scientists have named the identified antibody as C11 since it is specific to subtype-C of HIV/AIDS virus. As much as 90 per cent patients in India and South Africa are affected by this subtype. Scientists took blood samples from a set of patients visiting All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi and YR Gaitonde Centre for AIDS Research and Education, Chennai, for treatment.


  • In 2015, HIV prevalence in India was an estimated 0.26 per cent of total population
  • The country has almost 2.1 million people living with HIV
  • The country’s HIV epidemic is slowing down, with a 32 per cent decline in new HIV infections (86,000 in 2015), and a 54 per cent decline in AIDS-related deaths between 2007 and 2015


May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month An Orthopedic Surgeon Weighs In


By John H. Velyvis, M.D

With more than two-thirds of U.S. adults overweight or obese, and over 17 percent of children and adolescents, National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is the perfect time for all Americans to rededicate ourselves to the health benefits of an active lifestyle.  

The risks of being overweight or obese include chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, stroke, and some forms of cancer.  

While having a family history may make you more likely to develop any of these conditions as you age, there are several ways you can delay, improve and even avoid these diseases entirely. These include eating a healthful diet, staying within your recommended weight range and being active. 

As an orthopedic surgeon, I’ve cared for thousands of patients who suffer from osteoarthritis—the progressive deterioration of healthy cartilage in a joint. Almost half are overweight or obese, leading to increased wear and tear on their hip and knee joints. When you consider that every additional pound of body weight adds 5 pounds of pressure on each knee joint, it’s easy to see why excess weight compounds the problem.        

That’s why my first recommendation to these patients is often to lose weight to relieve the increased stress on their joints. I also urge sedentary patients to step up their activity levels. Just like any other part of the human body, cartilage needs to be used to stay healthy. Stronger muscles can also stabilize joints, reducing pain and inflammation.      

It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a new fitness regimen. Once you have the okay, remember any activity is better than no activity. Start slowly and don’t put yourself at risk. Build up your endurance gradually, making sure to stretch both before and after workouts. Most injuries I see happen when people aren’t physically ready for an activity. 

If you find it hard to exercise because of joint pain, doctors have a number of treatment options that can help relieve your symptoms, including physical therapy, medications and injections. If your pain continues, the next step may be minimally invasive surgery to diagnose and treat the problem.  

Should the pain start to affect your quality of life, partial or total joint replacement surgery may be your best choice. Joint replacement, the gold standard of treatment for advanced osteoarthritis for 40 years, is now better than ever with the introduction of robotic technology. 

What’s happening now with joint replacement is similar to what’s happened in the auto industry. Cars have been around for decades, but as the technology improves, so does the quality.   

Today’s joint replacement surgeons can now use the latest robotic-assisted surgical techniques to ensure the precise placement of joint implants, crucial to their long term success. Implants have improved dramatically, too, with newer models providing more natural results and lasting a lifetime.  

Better technology means even people with debilitating osteoarthritis don’t have to sit on the sidelines anymore. They can reduce their risk of serious disease and enjoy a more active lifestyle that helps get them in shape for life.    

For the rest of us? No more excuses. Let’s all commit to improving our health with a more active lifestyle during this year’s National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.   

Dr. John H. Velyvis is Medical Director of Robotic Orthopedic Surgery at Seton Medical Center in Daly City. Recognized as one of the most experienced orthopedic surgeons on the West Coast using robotic-assisted technology, Dr. Velyvis received his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from Harvard University and his medical degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. On days when he’s not seeing patients or performing surgery, Dr. Velyvis is often found on one of his favorite tennis courts.

New film warns: Hepatitis-B common among Asian Americans

New film warns: Hepatitis-B common among Asian Americans

Be About It by Christopher Wong screened on May 11 at University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, followed by a panel discussion.

Wong described his own lack of awareness of the disease and its prevalence before making the film: “The funny thing was that I was not aware of the disease myself. I didn’t know that it even had to do with the liver; that’s how uninformed I was. So when I started to dig deeper I was really shocked by the fact that over 50 percent of the cases are people of Asian descent. That really made me interested.”

Be About It is the story of two Asian fathers, their families and their reality of living with hepatitis-B, a potentially deadly disease that affects approximately one million Asian Americans.
Hep B, caused by the hepatitis B virus, can result in serious liver problems before symptoms become noticeable and is frequently referred to as a “silent killer.” Up to two million people are infected in the U.S., and as many as two out of three Asian Americans living with it aren’t aware they have it. Often stigmatized and misunderstood, hep B is the most common cause of liver cancer among Asian Americans.

Hep B is caused by a virus that is transmitted via blood and other bodily fluids. Hep B can be managed, and the disease can be prevented – but if left untreated, the complications of hep B can potentially be life threatening.

As Asian immigrants are projected to be the largest immigrant population in the country over the next 40 years, the need to call attention to this so-called “silent” disease is more critical than ever. The good news is that hep B can easily be detected with a quick and simple blood test. Everyone should talk to their doctor about getting tested – especially if you are of Asian descent.
If you test negative for hep B, there is a safe and effective vaccine that can prevent hep B, and it is widely available in the United States. If you test positive for hep B, talk to your doctor about whether treatment would be appropriate for you. Regular screenings to monitor the health of your liver are very important, and there are treatments that may potentially lower the amount of virus and decrease the risk of further damage to the liver – some are just one pill a day.
So on Hepatitis Testing Day on May 19, join millions of Asians here in the United States and around the globe and get tested for hepatitis B.
Visit for information about chronic hepatitis B, and to learn about the documentary film short BE ABOUT IT, sponsored by Gilead Sciences, which chronicles the lives of two Asian Americans, Alan and AJ, as they battle chronic hepatitis B, and how their families cope with the impact of this potentially life-threatening disease. The film aims to educate, inspire and ultimately dispel myths about hepatitis B. BE ABOUT IT is subtitled in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese, and community screening kits are now available.

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