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Can Caffeine be Good for Your Heart?

By Kathy Hubbard
I don’t drink coffee. Not for any particular reason other than I just don’t particularly like it and it gives me heartburn. My indigestion aside, there have been studies that were pretty negative towards caffeine consumption, whether that be in coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate. Consuming caffeine was thought to cause extra heartbeats, that although common enough, can lead to heart problems, stroke and in rare cases death.
Now, in a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers conclude that regular caffeine consumption is not linked to extra heartbeats. Very interesting.
But a word of caution before you head out to your favorite coffee house, talk to your healthcare professional. There are still some studies out there that say caffeine increases blood pressure which can lead to heart disease. There are also studies that say high caffeine intake may accelerate bone loss at those at risk for osteoporosis. That’s the disclaimer for today.
Now, back to heartbeats. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of California San Francisco led by Gregory Marcus, MD, MAS, a UCSF Health cardiologist and director of clinical research in the UCSF Division of Cardiology.
“Given our recent work demonstrating that extra heartbeats can be dangerous, this finding is especially relevant,” Marcus said. “Clinical recommendations advising against the regular consumption of caffeinated products to prevent disturbances of the heart’s cardiac rhythm should be reconsidered, as we may unnecessarily be discouraging consumption of items like chocolate, coffee and tea that might actually have cardiovascular benefits.”
In an article written by Scott Maier published on UCSF’s website, he explains that Marcus and his colleagues analyzed 1,388 randomly selected participants from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Cardiovascular Health Study database of over 6,000 patients. They excluded those diagnosed with persistent extra heartbeats.
“They were given a baseline food frequency assessment and 24-hour ambulatory electrocardiography monitoring. Frequencies of habitual coffee, tea and chocolate consumption were determined through a survey. Of the total participants, 840 (61 percent) consumed more than one caffeinated product daily,” Maier wrote.
I read the actual study and, frankly, it was too full of medicalese for me to quote. Thus I turned to an article in Medical News Today about this study. It mentions that this is the largest study to assess the relation between dietary patterns and extra heartbeats.
“They note that excessive premature atrial contractions (PACs) – which feel like the heart has skipped a beat and start in the upper chambers of the heart – have been shown to result in atrial fibrillation, stroke and death.
“Likewise, excessive premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) – which start in the lower chambers of the heart – can result in increased heart failure, coronary artery disease and death.
“Although previous studies have linked both types of premature contractions to caffeine consumption, the researchers say such studies were conducted several decades ago and did not use PACs or PVCs as a primary outcome.”
So now we have a study that suggests there are cardiovascular benefits linked to caffeine. In fact, a recent study suggests that moderate coffee consumption may prevent premature death. But, the guidelines of the American Heart Association still recommend eliminating factors that can potentially aggravate the condition, including caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
So, why should we believe this study? These researchers say that this is the first study that is community based and the first that examines the impact of caffeine on extra heartbeats. Previous studies examined patients with known arrhythmias.
“Results showed that there was no difference in incidence of PACs or PVCs per hour in all levels of coffee, tea and chocolate intake. Furthermore, participants who consumed such products more frequently did not have extra heartbeats.”
No more extra heartbeats? Cool. Cut out the heartburn and I’ll join you in a morning cuppa!
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@ yahoo.com.

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