Coffee not linked to heart arrhythmia

Large survey finds no extra hospitalizations in java drinkers

Too much coffee may bring on jitters, but this doesn’t seem to translate into heart-rhythm problems, a new study shows. People knocking back cup after cup had no more hospitalizations for heart arrhythmia — and may even have had slightly fewer — than did people who dodge the java altogether, researchers at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., report.

The finding should reassure people who have heart-rhythm problems or are at risk of them that they don’t need to abstain from drinking coffee, says study coauthor Arthur Klasky, a cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. The study results were released March 2 and will be presented March 5 at a meeting in San Francisco of the American Heart Association.

Klasky and his team examined health records of more than 130,000 men and women who entered a health study in the 1970s and 1980s. The subjects ranged in age from 18 to 90; participants underwent a physical exam and reported their lifestyle habits upon enrollment.

About 2 percent were hospitalized for heart arrhythmias between being enrolled and 2008.

Compared with coffee abstainers, those drinking four cups or more per day were 18 percent less likely to be hospitalized for heart arrhythmia over that time span. People drinking one to three cups a day had 7 percent fewer hospitalizations. The differences held up even when the scientists accounted for smoking status, gender, weight, cardiac history, education and other differences between the groups.

The researchers conducted the study because patients sometimes report feeling heart palpitations after drinking a lot of coffee.

Martijn Katan of VU University Amsterdam says this study confirms that coffee does not cause arrhythmia. “However, I am not sure that coffee actually protects,” he says, “since the risk reduction is modest.”

The report is the second piece of welcome news for coffee drinkers in a week. An earlier study suggested that coffee drinkers had roughly one-third less stroke risk  than abstainers.

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