I had a bit of fun with my latest visual abstract for BMJ Heart. It is on one of our most popular recent papers, one examining whether eating chocolate can protect from the abnormal irregular heart rhythm, atrial fibrillation. Guess what? Maybe! As you can imagine, this is why it was picked up by so many news agencies. But is it an invitation to stuff your face?
It was a large study, concentrated in two areas of Denmark (so might not be applicable to everyone), following up 55,502 patients over 13 years. It found that eating a chocolate serving (30g) 2-6 times per week meant you were 80% as likely to develop atrial fibrillation as someone who ate chocolate less than once a month (I fall into this category - better start blood thinners!)
An interesting bit of trivia revealed from this explains why American chocolate is so piss awful. EU law dictates a foodstuff must contain a minimum of 30% cocoa solids to be called milk chocolate and 43% to be called dark chocolate. In America the minima are 10% and 30% respectively. Seeing as how it is dark chocolate that is thought to be beneficial, applying the findings of this study to America in particular could be ill-advised.
It's worth noting, there is a large meta-analysis of 72,000 people, in neighbouring Sweden, showed no relationship between choccies and AF. But guess which of these two papers the media went crazy with? "Scientists say we can eat Lindt Lindors every day!" or "Available data provide no evidence of an association of chocolate consumption with risk of AF"?
As with any diet-related study, there are issues with accuracy of self-reporting and all the other confounders (eg do chocolate fans also, say, drink more coffee? Could that be relevant?) that exist, but nevertheless a very interesting and high quality paper. Of course, the investigators from Denmark missed a real trick by not calling it 'Chocolate Danish'.