Over the years, we have attributed our successes and failures partly to caffeine. The energy, the adrenalin and the high that we need to do a great job, sail through that tough exam, or drive hundreds of kilometers non-stop, we owe to it caffeine. But we also blame caffeine for the sleeplessness, the nervousness and the tremors, and the heart palpitations.
Over the years, there have been lots and lots of research about the effect of caffeine on our health. Check out the post Coffee: a health drink or an addictive brew?
A recent study by Swiss researchers based a large group of women who were participants in the Women’s Health Study. The study followed-up more than 30,000 middle-aged women for about 14 years. These women were initially healthy and had no heart problems or any other serious health issues. The participants were monitored for a median of 14.4 years in terms of health as well as their daily caffeine consumption.
The results of the study indicate that caffeine is not to blame for atrial fibrillation, a heart problem due to disruption in the rhythm of the heart beat. According to lead author Dr David Conen of the University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland:
“Increased caffeine consumption is not associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation in our population, and this confirms one of the few prior prospective studies on this issue, a Danish study that showed very similar findings.”
The researchers also the report the following as the most common sources of caffeine:
- 81% coffee
- 10% tea
- 7% cola
with the assumption that there are:
- 137 mg caffeine in a cup of coffee
- 47 mg caffeine in a cup of tea
- 46 mg caffeine in a can or bottle of cola
- 7 mg caffeine per serving of chocolate candy
There is no information about caffeinate energy drinks but this might be because these drinks are basically commonly consumed by a sector of the population younger than the study participants.
This has been the biggest study so far to look at the health effects of caffeine.
“We can now say that there is definitely no large study out there showing that average long-term consumption of caffeine is associated with atrial fibrillation. I think when you drink moderate amounts, or even high amounts, of caffeine on a regular, stable basis, you can be reassured knowing that there is not an association with the arrhythmia.”
This is indeed good news for coffee lovers who need their daily caffeine fix in order to stay awake during the day. As to the claims that caffeine has actually a protective effect, the authors state this needs to be confirmed by other studies. And what about “binge” caffeine drinking via energy drinks reported in young people to enhance performance? The study only considered the habitual caffeine consumption of people e.g. average daily consumption and did not cover consumption of unusually large amount of caffeine in a short period of time.