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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Since I have a-fib, should I avoid chocolate since it contains caffeine?

I was told not to have caffeine because of my a-fib. Since dark chocolate is good for you and I love dark chocolate, do you think I can eat it even though it contains caffeine? If yes what should be the amount?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

chocolate candies made from milk, dark, and white chocolate

There is inconclusive data regarding whether caffeine has an effect on those with atrial fibrillation. It appears that it does not: Dr. Gourmet's Health and Nutrition Bite: Caffeine and Atrial Fibrillation

There have been case reports of people consuming excessive amounts of caffeine and ending up with atrial fibrillation. In the most recent report the patient did convert back to a regular rhythm. (Am J Ther 2010;17(5):e169-71). In another case a 19 year old woman "abusing" chocolate ended up in a-fib (but she was also using asthma medications).

No good research has been done to see whether those with atrial fibrillation are made worse with caffeine consumption. As such, there's no threshold of the amount of chocolate might be safe. In my clinic I might handle this on an individual basis with each patient, and that's what's appropriate for now. Dark chocolate has very little caffeine at about 20 milligrams (mg) per ounce. That's about 1/4 of what's in a cup of coffee. Milk chocolate is even lower at 6 mg per 1 ounce.

Check with your doctor on this. He or she might feel that in your case a little chocolate every now and then is OK.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet