Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages around the world, but the pendulum has swung back and forth on its advantages and disadvantages.
New discoveries from a small A study published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests tradeoffs and tradeoffs: Drinking at least one cup of coffee a day can get you moving more but sleeping less — and could put you at greater risk for a type of stroke. heart palpitation.
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“The overall conclusion is that there is not just a single health-related consequence of coffee consumption, but that the reality is more complicated than that,” said lead study author Dr. Gregory Marcus, cardiologist and professor of medicine. at the University of California, San Francisco, in the United States.
“The vast majority of research on the subject has been observational, meaning we just look and see what happens to people who drink and don’t drink coffee, which is deeply limited by the possibility that… it’s driving if someone drinks coffee,” said Marcus. “The only way to mitigate these potential effects was to conduct a randomized interventional trial.”
To get a better idea of the immediate health effects of coffee, the authors recruited 100 healthy adults with an average age of 39 and from the San Francisco area. They outfitted participants with Fitbits to track their steps and sleep, continuous blood glucose monitors, and EKG machines that track their heart rhythms. Each participant was randomly assigned to drink as much coffee as they wanted for two days, then abstain for two days, repeating this cycle over a two-week period.
On coffee drinking days, participants took an average of 1,058 more steps than on abstinence days, the authors found. But on those days, sleep suffered, with participants sleeping 36 minutes less. The more coffee they drank, the more physical activity and less sleep they slept.
Coffee also seemed to affect the heart. The researchers found no evidence of a significant relationship between coffee consumption and premature atrial contractions, which are “very common early heartbeats that we all experience arising from the upper chambers of the heart,” Marcus said. They may feel like a flutter or a thumping in the chest.
“People with more premature atrial contractions are at greater risk of developing a clinically significant heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation,” he added.
But drinking more than one cup a day resulted in about a 50% higher incidence of premature ventricular contractions, or PVCs, compared with no-coffee days.
These heartbeats arise from the lower chambers of the heart and can also feel like a missed beat or heart palpitations.
“So this provides some compelling evidence that trying (quitting) coffee might be worthwhile in those individuals who experience troublesome PVCs-related palpitations,” said Marcus.
“There is also evidence that, in some people, more PVCs can lead to heart weakening or heart failure,” added Marcus. “So it could be that if someone is especially concerned about heart failure risks — like if they have a family history or if there’s some other indication that their doctor says (makes them) at risk — they might want to avoid coffee.”
Peter Kistler, head of electrophysiology at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, described the study as strong but cautioned that “this is a short-term study in healthy volunteers.”
“This does not provide information about the long-term benefits or adverse effects of long-term coffee consumption,” said Kistler, who was not involved in the study. “This does not provide information about the impact of coffee on people with other health conditions, and generally (study participants) consumed modest amounts of coffee.”
Effects of coffee on health
When people drink coffee, they may be more motivated to exercise or improve performance when they start moving, Marcus said.
But people “shouldn’t extrapolate that to drinking energy drinks or high-dose caffeine as a workout boost,” as high doses can be disruptive, he said.
The fact that drinking coffee leads to less sleep is perhaps not surprising, but a potential genetic aspect to this finding might be. The researchers collected DNA samples from the participants, and those who had greater reductions in sleep when they consumed coffee had genetic variants associated with slower caffeine metabolism. People with genetic variants associated with faster caffeine metabolism, on the other hand, had more premature ventricular contractions.
These findings suggest that an individualized approach to coffee consumption may be the most appropriate method for determining health effects, according to the study.
Kistler had another opinion about the sleep depletion finding.
“Coffee is the most common ‘drug’ for cognitive enhancement,” he said. “People who drink coffee are less tired. This is not necessarily negative.”
Regarding links between coffee ingestion and premature ventricular contractions, caffeine may contain active metabolites such as aminophylline, which is used in asthma medications and, in high doses, is known to induce arrhythmias, Marcus said.
Additionally, “coffee tends to increase activity in the sympathetic nervous system, or the adrenaline side of the nervous system, which can promote PVCs,” he added.
what does it mean to you
It’s worth considering the effects found in the study based on your personal health goals, Marcus said.
“Individuals can be reassured that there are certainly no imminently dangerous effects of drinking coffee,” said Marcus.
Want to know if you’re a caffeine fast or slow metabolizer? There really aren’t any clinical tests on the consumer market, Marcus said, but you can find out using a DNA test that measures it.
You might also want to pay close attention to what your experiences might be telling you about your tolerance.
“If they start to feel anxious (and) jittery over a cup of coffee, they are a slow metabolizer,” Kistler said via email. “But if they have a higher tolerance, they are metabolizing coffee faster.”
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