People who drank more cups of coffee daily had a slightly lower risk for cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) in a new analysis of over 386,000 adults, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
The researchers were interested in exploring links between coffee consumption and heart rhythm problems among adults with a moderate, regular coffee intake. They looked at data from the UK Biobank, a large general health study that tracked participants’ diets along with a wide range of health-related outcomes. Participants were followed between January 2006 and December 2018, and had an average age of 56 at the time of enrollment in the study. During the study period, the researchers looked at whether participants developed any type of cardiac arrhythmia — including atrial fibrillation or flutter, supraventricular tachycardia, ventricular tachycardia, premature atrial complexes, and premature ventricular complexes.
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Increased coffee intake linked to decreased arrhythmia risk
During an average follow-up period of 4.5 years, nearly 17,000 participants developed an arrhythmia. After adjusting for factors that could make heart rhythm problems more or less likely — including demographic factors, health conditions, and lifestyle factors — the researchers found that for every additional cup of coffee that participants drank each day, the risk for arrhythmia dropped by 3%. A significant link between coffee consumption and heart rhythm problems was seen specifically for atrial fibrillation or flutter and supraventricular tachycardia, as well as for all types of arrhythmia grouped together. When the researchers looked at genetic differences that might affect caffeine metabolism in participants, they found no evidence of a link between these genes and the effect of coffee intake on arrhythmia. In other words, the benefit seen from coffee wasn’t dependent on having a certain genetic profile related to caffeine metabolism.
The researchers noted that based on these results, there is no merit to widespread advice that people should reduce their caffeine consumption to lower the risk for heart rhythm problems. More studies are needed, though, to look at whether coffee consumption increases the risk for arrhythmia past a certain daily caffeine intake, at least in certain groups of people — and there are other health risks linked to excess coffee consumption, including possibly a higher risk for dementia. It’s also possible that coffee consumption could contribute to certain health risks once someone develops a serious heart rhythm problem. But at least in people who don’t already have an arrhythmia diagnosis, it looks like there’s no reason to restrict moderate coffee intake based on this concern.
“Health care professionals can reassure patients that there is no evidence that drinking coffee increases the risk for developing arrhythmias,” said Zachary D. Goldberger, MD, and Rodney A. Hayward, MD, in a commentary accompanying the study, as noted in a Healio article. “This is particularly important for the many patients with benign palpitations who are devastated when they think, or are told, that they have to stop drinking coffee.”
Want to learn more about keeping your heart healthy with diabetes? Read “Tips for a Healthy Heart,” “Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease” and “Fight Off Heart Disease With These Five Heart-Healthy Foods.”