New Study Shows That Cardiac Problems Are Probably Not Linked To Caffeine Intake After All
For diehard caffeine addicts, it can be an alarmingly common occurrence: you’re halfway through your third cappuccino on an especially busy morning. You feel fine, alert, engaged, sharp as a tack. Bring on the next meeting. You take one more sip and–there it is.
A little slippage in the chest, a little flutter.
Your mind flashes through visions of emergency rooms, someone yelling “Clear!” maybe someone dramatically pounding on your chest and commanding you to “Don’t you quit on me, damn it!”
Well, coffee drinkers can take heart: absent other factors, the racing heart you feel after your third espresso is probably not indicative of an impending cardiac arrest.
According to a new study led by Dr. Greg Marcus of the University of California-San Francisco, the relationship between coffee drinking and arrhythmia is unlikely to be a risk factor in cardiac arrest.
Sudden cardiac arrest is of course no joke. It kills upwards of 325,000 Americans every year, in fact.
And Dr. Marcus knows something about how the heart works: he specializes in treating arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats–the rapid, droopy, or off-kilter rhythms that can trigger sudden cardiac arrest. Defined as a sudden loss of heart function, cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack, which is caused by blockages to blood vessels leading to the heart.
Marcus and his research team looked into the relationship between caffeine and “early beats,” a type of arrhythmia that can be a risk factor for developing heart failure. It’s a condition in which individual heart cells “go rogue,” jumping the gun and beating a little earlier then the rest of the heart.
“There’s this conventional wisdom that more caffeine leads to these early beats,” Marcus said in an interview on a podcast called “Inquiring Minds.” “We could find no evidence of a relationship.”
The team monitored heart rhythms as lucky volunteers consumed common caffeine sources such as tea, coffee, and chocolate, but found no sign that these dangerous forms of arrhythmia occurred more frequently in the presence of caffeine.
Dr. Marcus was quick to caution however that more work remains to be done, and that each person’s reaction to caffeine and the risks involved are going to vary. Genetics, environmental exposures–there are tons of factors that have yet to be fully understood.
But at the very least, coffee junkies can be cautiously heartened by the news that that occasional caffeine-related flutter is unlikely to be anything serious.