A few weeks, a judge controversially ruled that coffee in California should be sold with a cancer warning just like a packet of cigarettes. Don’t worry too much if that legal dispute was enough to make you spit out your morning brew, science is singing the praises of the humble cup of coffee once again.
New scientific research has found that drinking several cups of coffee a day is perfectly safe and appears to possess many health benefits – even if you have a history of heart problems.
The American College of Cardiology meta-study took a look at a number of previous papers on the effect of caffeine on heart arrhythmias and cardiovascular health. As reported in the JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology, they found that up to six cups of standard-strength coffee a day (or 500 milligrams of caffeine) did not increase the severity or rate of ventricular arrhythmias.
In fact, one study of over 228,000 people showed that coffee drinkers have a 6 percent reduction in risk of atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder that causes the heart to beat rapidly and skip beats. A further study of over 115,000 patients showed a 13 percent risk decrease. Another study of 103 people recovering from heart attacks found that drinking an average of three coffees (or 350 milligrams) each day actually improved their heart rate and they had no significant arrhythmias.
“There is a public perception, often based on anecdotal experience, that caffeine is a common acute trigger for heart rhythm problems,” lead author Peter Kistler, PhD, director of electrophysiology at Alfred Hospital and Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, said in a statement. “Our extensive review of the medical literature suggests this is not the case.”
Tea will do the job too, but the researchers determined that most energy drinks should be avoided if you have any pre-existing heart conditions. Around three-quarters of patients with pre-existing heart conditions who consumed two or more energy drinks each day reported palpitations.
In your brain, caffeine is essentially a mimic of adenosine, a neurochemical that plays in both sleep and heart rhythms. Caffeine is also able to block the activity of adenosine receptors. It’s believed that this process could be key to reducing atrial fibrillation and other problems with heart rhythm, along with the antioxidant effects of tea and coffee.
This new research is the latest in a long line of studies that have shown the health benefits of coffee in moderation, from a lower risk of liver cancer to a generally longer life expectancy.
Just remember to ditch the single-use plastic takeaway cups.