Caffeine and Cardiovascular Risk: Cause for Concern?

No differences were found in PACs or PVCs per hour among the different levels of caffeine consumption
No differences were found in PACs or PVCs per hour among the different levels of caffeine consumption

Consuming caffeine regularly does not lead to extra heartbeats, according to a new study by researchers at UC San Francisco, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Studies in the past had tied caffeine consumption to excessive premature atrial contractions (PACs) and excessive premature ventricular contractions (PVCs), which can lead to heart failure, coronary artery disease, and death.

However, these previous studies did not use PACs or PVCs as primary outcomes and most of them were conducted decades ago. More recent research has, on the contrary, found caffeine to be beneficial to cardiovascular health. Even so, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association guidelines maintain their recommendation to eliminate caffeine products from the diet of those with a history of premature extra beats.

RELATED: Does Heavy Coffee Consumption Up AF Risk?

UC San Francisco researchers analyzed 1,388 participants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Cardiovascular Health Study, over a 12-month period, who did not have persistent extra heartbeats. The participants self-reported their frequency of habitual coffee, tea, and chocolate consumption via a survey. Their heart rates were simultaneously monitored by a 24-hour ambulatory electrocardiography. Sixty-one percent (n=840) of the participants reported consuming more than one caffeinated product daily.

They found no differences in the number of PACs or PVCs per hour among the different levels of coffee, tea, and chocolate consumption. Higher rates of caffeine product consumption were not associated with extra heartbeats, they noted.

“Clinical recommendations advising against the regular consumption of caffeinated products to prevent disturbances of the heart's cardiac rhythm should be reconsidered, as we may unnecessarily be discouraging consumption of items like chocolate, coffee and tea that might actually have cardiovascular benefits,” said senior author Gregory Marcus, MD, MAS, of UCSF Division of Cardiology. 

Noting how their study was solely concerned with chronic caffeine consumption; the authors called for further research into acute consumption, to determine any risks to those who have acute consumption habits.

For more information visit ucsf.edu.

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