May 26, 2017

Weekend reads: How one surgeon responded to victims of the Manchester bombing

Daily Briefing

The Daily Briefing editorial team highlights several interesting health care stories and studies that didn't quite make this week's Briefing. What are you reading this weekend? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

Ben Palmer's reads

Chocolate tied to decreased risk of irregular heart rhythm. Having a little bit of chocolate a few times a month may cut the risk of a common form of irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation, according to a new study in the journal Heart. The researchers found that eating foods that contained cocoa may boost overall heart health because cocoa has a lot of flavonoids—compounds that are thought to help reduce inflammation and relax blood vessels, among other benefits. In the study, subjects who had two to six ounces of chocolate each week were 20 percent less likely than those who did not have any chocolate to be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, while subjects who had more than an ounce of chocolate per day were 16 percent less likely than those who did not eat chocolate to be diagnosed with the condition.

Surgeon reflects on treating Manchester bombing victims. One of the most unexpectedly difficult parts of caring for the victims of Monday's bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester was the anonymity of the situation, according to Steve Jones, a surgeon at Central Manchester University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Jones, who was called to the hospital immediately following the attack, shared how he wasn't familiar with the singer—and so he went to work expecting that he would be caring for adult concert-goers. But he quickly learned that Grande has a predominately youthful audience, and many of the victims—including 22 casualties and more than 100 injured—were children or teenagers. "The anonymity of it was ... hard," he said. "Some of the kids were separated from their families for a time. We were treating children and we just didn't know who they were" (Hjelmgaard, USA Today, 5/25).

Rachel Schulze's reads

Come to think of it, have you ever seen a flamingo standing on both legs? If you've ever wondered how flamingos balance so effortlessly on one leg, researchers have found your answer: It's the mechanics of their body. When the scientists looked at flamingo cadavers, they saw that instead of falling over when set into the one-leg position, the cadavers stayed put—even when researchers tilted the body forward and backward. According to Lena Ting, a biomedical engineer at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology who co-led the study, "it's possible [for flamingos] to maintain what we'd consider very difficult posture without having to activate muscles." She said, "It might even be easier for them to stand on one leg than to stand on two."

Lawsuit claims Whoppers box isn't so whopping. A federal judge has ruled that a Missouri man may proceed with a lawsuit against Hershey's that alleges the chocolate maker under-fills its candy boxes. Robert Bratton in the suit contends that Hershey's Whoppers box is only 59 percent full. A box of Reese's Pieces fares better but still comes up short, at about 71 percent full, according to the suit. Hershey had asked to have the case tossed, holding that its packaging is not deceptive. The candy case is one of several recent lawsuits alleging food companies under fill their packaging—a new twist on an old legal strategy, according to Maria Glover, a law professor at Georgetown University. She said that "class-action suits against companies for seemingly small infractions are not a particularly new phenomenon," and the latest lawsuits are "just the newest trend."

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