This may come as a shock to all you coffee lovers out there, but according to a new study, drinking that occasional cup of coffee might just trigger first heart attacks in some individuals who are already prone to poor heart health and other risk factors.
According to the study’s author, Ana Baylin, assistant professor at Brown University, “One cup or less of coffee per day may set off heart attacks in people with a sedentary lifestyle or with three or more risk factors for heart disease.” This new finding is surprising and it’s sure to fuel the already steaming debate about coffee and heart health that has been ongoing for some time now among health experts.
In previous studies, the consensus has been that drinking coffee does not raise a person’s heart-health risks, stating instead that the habit could even promote diabetes prevention. According to other studies, it turns out that the culprit was decaffeinated coffee, not the regular kind.
Regardless of the previous information surrounding the coffee versus heart health debate, the new study conducted by Baylin and her associates at Harvard’s School of Public Health uncovered some interesting findings. (The study will be published in September’s issue of the medical journal Epidemiology.)
The study looked at 503 nonfatal heart attack cases. They occurred between 1994 and 1998 in participants living in Costa Rica, where their drinking one cup a day (light consumption) and two to three cups a day (moderate consumption) was linked to a higher occurrence of first- time nonfatal heart attacks. This was in comparison to drinking four-plus cups of coffee a day, which is considered to be heavy consumption.
The study only focused on the short-term effects of coffee, where the participants reported drinking a moderate amount at two to three cups a day. The researchers looked at what happened to the participants four hours after drinking coffee, and without coming to conclusive results, Baylin stated that it could be the caffeine contributing to the raised heart attack risk. This is due to an active component in coffee that is known to increase sympathetic nerve activity, which, in turn, raises a person’s blood pressure.
The interesting part? Researchers found that while moderate drinkers in the study who drank coffee upped their risk of experiencing a first heart attack, heavy drinkers were not at risk. The reason for this is unclear. Also, it is important to note that the findings do not apply to the general population, as the study only looked at individuals who were already at risk for heart attack.
You should keep in mind, however, that you may be prone to a possible heightened risk if you drink coffee moderately and have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, are obese, smoke, or have diabetes. If you don’t have these risk factors, according to Baylin, you don’t necessarily have to limit your intake of coffee.
While this study may raise questions, keep in mind that it has been deemed as “inconclusive” by some experts, including Dr. Robert Eckel, who is the immediate past president of the American Heart Association (AHA). Calling the study “all opinion and theory,” he notes that much like a lot of research on coffee, the findings in this study call for further research and validation.
If you are unsure of the coffee and heart-risk link, you can visit the AHA at www.americanheart.org for more information.