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Caffeine In Chocolate Is Controversial

Posting Date: 08/02/2004

Q. You really blew it in your response to a person concerned about the health effects of chocolate. You said there?s no caffeine in chocolate. My doctor told me to stay away from coffee and chocolate because caffeine could throw my heart out of rhythm.

Last year I developed an abnormal heart rhythm and had to be shocked with electrocardioversion to get back into normal rhythm. I?m avoiding caffeine since I don?t want to go through that again.

A. We may have overstated the case. As we specified, the primary ingredient in chocolate is theobromine, a compound related to caffeine. One chemical analysis (Biochemist, Apr/May 1993) showed no detectable caffeine in chocolate. Other sources list a small amount of caffeine in cocoa and chocolate candy, perhaps because of different analytic techniques.

For comparison, a 5-ounce cup of coffee has 80 to 115 mg of caffeine. A 12-ounce can of cola runs around 40 to 50 mg and so does a cup of tea. A cup of decaf coffee or cocoa has 4 mg and an ounce of milk chocolate is listed as having about 6 mg of caffeine. An ounce of dark chocolate may vary from 5 mg to 25 mg.

For most people, this amount of caffeine is not a problem. For you, however, the consequences of eating chocolate are probably too serious to risk it.

Q. I used to take Prilosec but several months ago my doctor switched me to Nexium to combat acid reflux. It gives me a headache and I worry that it might interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12. Are there any other ways to combat heartburn?

A. Drugs like Aciphex, Prilosec, Prevacid and Protonix are extremely effective at suppressing acid, but long-term regular use may make it harder to take in vitamin B12. This nutrient requires acid in the stomach for adequate absorption. Vitamin B12 is essential for proper nerve functioning.

One reader offered the following: ?I heard somewhere that when I got acid reflux I should try chewing sugarless gum. It works for me and is a lot cheaper than all the drugs I had been using. The pain goes away almost immediately.?