How Coffee may Actually Protect Your Heart

How Coffee may Actually Protect Your Heart


This is a review of a study, out of the University of California, San Francisco, which was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which looked into the association between coffee/caffeine and heart arrhythmias.

Need for Concern?

For decades, doctors have warned people suffering from heart rhythm problems to avoid coffee, this mainly out of concern that a caffeine jolt might prompt an abnormal heartbeat. 

But, a large study, out of the University of California, San Francisco, found that most people can enjoy their morning Joe free from worry, because caffeine doesn't appear to increase most people's risk of arrhythmia.


Dr. Gregory Marcus, Associate Chief of Cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco, and the study’s co-author said, "We see no evidence for this broad-based recommendation to avoid coffee or caffeine, there could be some individuals where caffeine is their trigger, but I think the growing evidence is those cases are actually quite rare."

Lowering the Risk

Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages worldwide, but its properties, as a stimulant, have prompted many doctors to warn heart patients against drinking it.

However, the results indicate that every additional cup of coffee a person drinks daily might actually lower their risk of arrhythmia by about 3% on average, this according to the study published JAMA Internal Medicine, and there is a link in the description below to that study.


Dr. Gregory Marcus noted that, "The majority of people, even those with arrhythmias, should be able to enjoy their cup of coffee, and maybe there are some people for whom caffeine or coffee may actually help reduce their risk."

The Cohort 

To see whether caffeine really can cause the heart to race or beat abnormally, Marcus and his colleagues’ analyzed data from more than 386,000 people participating in a long-term British health study. 

The researchers said that of that large group (of 386,000 people) only around 17,000 people (so around 4.4%), developed a heart rhythm problem during an average follow-up of 4½ years.

The Results

All participants were asked about their coffee consumption when they entered the study. The researchers then compared their response to their likelihood of developing an abnormal heart rhythm later on down the line.

The result; there was no link at all between caffeine and heart rhythm disturbances, even when researchers took into account genetic factors that might influence the way individuals metabolize caffeine.


Dr. Gregory Marcus added that, "We could find no evidence on a population level that those who consumed more coffee or those exposed to more caffeine experienced a heightened risk for arrhythmias."


Dr. Zachary Goldberger, an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said, the study results show, "There is absolutely some unsubstantiated dogma that coffee can cause arrhythmias. 

I think the bottom line, based on these findings, is that coffee may not cause arrhythmias, but it doesn't necessarily protect against them either.” 

However, Dr. Goldberger cautioned against reading too much into what the study observed about caffeine's potential protective benefits, given that the effect was so small.


Dr. Gregory Marcus added that, “Further research is needed to “suss” out exactly how coffee affects the heart, and why it might protect against arrhythmias. 

Coffee has anti-inflammatory effects, and it's well-known that inflammation can contribute to heart rhythm problems.

It also might be that caffeine motivates some people to be more physically active, which also reduces the risk of arrhythmia.

Closing Statement 

Dr. Gregory Marcus closed by saying, "We are probably not fully aware of the various mechanisms that may be relevant to the relationship between caffeine and heart health. 

In many cases anecdotally it doesn't make a difference, for most, I have not found that it's an important trigger. They are very happy to receive this good news, especially those who enjoy coffee."

Dr. Marcus said that he encourages his own heart rhythm patients to experiment with coffee.

Dr. Zachary Goldberger

Dr. Zachary Goldberger stated that, "If a patient comes to clinic with palpitations, or symptoms of an arrhythmia, and asks whether caffeine or coffee plays a role; that is a personalized discussion.

If a patient reports having palpitations that seem correlated with coffee or caffeinated beverages, these data don't give us the license to tell them not to try to limit coffee, but I think we could tell our patient that coffee doesn't place people at higher risk of heart rhythm disturbances."


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