House Calls

House Calls Started This Year

House calls are meant for patients who are temporarily or permanently home bound, or for other good reasons can't make it into the office.

To schedule a house call: Tel (203) 853-1919; email

Monday, January 30, 2023

Great News on Coffee and Chocolate

 To My Patients,

Emailed to patients 1/16/2023

Hope all is well - Winter is here, with a touch of snow on the ground today – hasn’t been bad in our area. For winter, we rely on solutions: boots, coats, snowplows. For health, we try to get away with resolutions – but actual solutions work out much better than resolutions, which fade away by January 13th.

So don’t just resolve to lower your carbs, move around more vigorously, get your colonoscopy or physical exam, just do it!

Sandy and I are happy to announce the birth of our second great-grandchild, Liam, on January 11th!

Some procedural issues:

As stated previously, we’re trying to send as many periodic statements as possible by email, rather than by snail mail (we think that even a small contribution to tree saving is important). If you object to an emailed statement, please let us know.

Pre-certification is frequently required by insurance companies for many medications, and before diagnostic procedures.

Please give us a call at 203-853-1919 if you need an appointment

In our practice, the big  victim medications  include common inhalers and injectable medication for diabetes (also used for weight loss). The main  victim test  is an MRI. Approval, if finally obtained, may require several steps which are frequently time consuming and frustrating. It’s usually caused by unnecessary delays by the insurance companies.

So, when there’s a pre-cert issue, please know that while we try to help, the pathway is not always smooth - call early so we can help.

COVID is still with us. While it’s occurrence level in Connecticut has been relatively stable, it’s incidence in the US is rising. The daily US COVID fatality rate last week was close to 400 a day, about 10% higher than the previous week. If one were to extrapolate this to a yearly rate, then COVID is now the 9th most common cause of death in the US (far exceeding flu fatalities). Despite recent controversy, the COVID vaccine still significantly reduces the number of severe COVID cases and hospitalizations. Do keep up with your vaccinations.

And now little almost-medicine:

Are you a chocolate  addict? 
If so, that may not be so bad, especially if you eat the right kind of chocolate in moderation.

Chocolate is big business, almost worldwide. Americans spend 20 billion (yes, billions with a B) dollars a year on chocolate confectionery and consume about 20lbs. of it each year per capita.

The health benefits of cacao, the valuable ingredient in chocolate, are modest but well established, related mainly to cocoa flavanols. They include an overall lowering of cardiovascular disease and the chance of developing diabetes, modest improvements in exercise and physical performance, and even an improvement in memory and mental fatigue.

But there’s a caveat: In a chocolate bar (or chips, bits), what’s not cacao, is usually sugar. If sugar is the first-listed ingredient, avoid the product or be satisfied with a very small amount. Cocoa naturally contains trace amounts of Cadmium - which is naturally present in the soil, not from cacao processing. It also contains trace amounts of lead, which may attach to the cocoa beans (usually inadvertently) during the drying and fermentation process.

The best chocolate is the one that has at least 70% cocoa and contains the least amounts of the heavy metals cadmium and lead.

According to Consumer Lab, an independent food testing laboratory, popular chocolate bars with acceptable cadmium levels are Ghirardelli Intense Dark 72% and 86%, Valrhona Albino Dark 85%, Taza Chocolate Organic 70%, and Mast Organic Dark 80% cocoa. Others may also be acceptable, but test results, if any, are not publicly available.

So, go ahead and enjoy your chocolate in moderation, and try to choose the right ones.

Are you a coffee  addict? 
Like eating chocolate, drinking coffee may not be so bad either.

True, a large amount of coffee (or caffeine in other forms of food) may have some detrimental effects, including insomnia, an increase in heart rate, heart burn and anxiety. In very large amounts, it can even cause medical dependence, and withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly (we’ve seen this in our practice on a few occasions, and I believe we saved one marriage or more by making the diagnosis).

But the good news, and there’s plenty of it, is that coffee is known to increase cognitive function and may boost physical performance. It reduces the risk of developing the common type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease and appears to have a protective effect on the liver, perhaps even on liver cancer. It contains a lot of beneficial antioxidants which protect our body cells from the harmful effects of free radicals, and trace amounts of essential nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins. Decaffeinated coffee (which does have a little caffeine in it), still carries with it many of the benefits of caffeinated coffee and has fewer side effects.

What’s considered safe? This may vary from one person to another. According to the American Heart Association, up to 400mg of caffeine a day for an otherwise healthy adult is considered safe. This includes caffeine consumption from all sources of dietary caffeine, such as tea, soda, and many  energy drinks. 

Examples of caffeine content of popular drinks include:
  • Starbucks dark roast - 260 mg ( tall cup )
  • Starbucks espresso - 150 mg/shot
  • Espresso (not Starbucks) - average 75 mg per  shot 
  • Regular drip coffee average 135 mg/ 8 oz cup
  • Black tea 50 mg /8 oz cup
  • Energy drinks – 200 mg or more per 8 oz (always check the label!)
And the list goes on, with many variations..., much more on

To answer your inevitable question, yes, chocolate does have caffeine. The darker the chocolate, the more caffeine it has, about 20mg caffeine per oz of 70% chocolate bar. You may not want to consume too much of it before bedtime...

Go ahead and enjoy the benefits of coffee, just don’t overdo it.

Please give us a call at 203-853-1919 if you need an appointment

Until next time, stay well,
Igal Staw, PhD, MD

Twitter / Dr. Staw