Coffee drinkers can take heart: a new study has claimed that individuals who drink the beverage are less likely to be hospitalized for heart rhythm disturbances.
The researchers, who note the findings may be surprising because patients frequently report palpitations after drinking coffee, are presenting the study at the American Heart Association's 50th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention in San Francisco on March 5, 2010.
While it has been established that very large doses of caffeine, the most active ingredient in coffee, can produce rhythm disturbances, there has been limited epidemiologic research about the caffeine doses people take.
To reach the conclusion, researchers followed 130,054 men and women and found that those who reported drinking four or more cups of coffee each day had an 18 percent lower risk of hospitalization for heart rhythm disturbances. Those who reported drinking one to three cups each day had a 7 percent reduction in risk, according to Arthur Klatsky, MD, the study's lead investigator and a senior consultant in cardiology at Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.
"Coffee drinking is related to lower risk of hospitalization for rhythm problems, but the association does not prove cause and effect, or that coffee has a protective effect," Klasky said. Other explanations for the association might include other traits of coffee drinkers such as exercise or dietary habits.
Additionally, some people with heart rhythm problems often are not hospitalized.
"However, these data might be reassuring to people who drink moderate amounts of coffee that their habit is not likely to cause a major rhythm disturbance," Klatsky said.
While this report is not sufficient evidence to say that people should drink coffee to prevent rhythm problems, it supports the idea that people who are at risk for rhythm problems, or who have rhythm problems, do not necessarily need to abstain from coffee, emphasized Klatsky.