Drinking three cups of coffee a day could lower the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, new research suggests.
While many health experts advise patients with heart problems such as arrhythmias – a group of conditions that cause the heart to beat irregularly, either too slow or too fast – to avoid caffeinated beverages, a new piece of evidence from cardiologists in Australia suggests otherwise.
In fact, experts at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, believe that caffeine could help protect against deadly heart problems.
Analysing a series of studies looking at caffeine intake and its effects on atrial and ventricular arrhythmias, scientists found that, once in the body, caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine – a chemical that can increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms.
One study involving 228,465 people showed that the risk of atrial fibrillation – a condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate – fell by six per cent in regular coffee drinkers.
While another, involving 115,993 patients, showed a 13 per cent risk reduction.
Similarly, a randomised study of 103 heart attack patients, who were given 353mg of caffeine a day, also showed improved heart rate and no significant arrhythmias.
“There is a public perception, often based on anecdotal experience, that caffeine is a common trigger for heart rhythm problems,” Dr Peter Kistler, who led the new research, said.
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”Our extensive review of the medical literature suggests this is not the case.“
Just two studies showed an increased risk for arrhythmias but researchers say this was when patients drank at least nine to 10 cups of coffee a day.
In light of their findings, the team suggest that drinking up to 300mg of caffine a day – the equivalent of three cups – should be safe for patients with irregular heartbeats.
However, they add that anyone with a pre-existing heart condition should speak to their doctor before increasing the amount of tea and coffee they drink.
Likewise, they insist that energy drinks should be completely avoided.
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