nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Coffee Reduces Cardiac Arrhythmias?

The American Heart Association had its Epidemiology and Prevention Conference last week.  An interesting paper was presented on coffee drinking and heart rhythm.  Patients tell you that drinking coffee sometimes gives them palpitations, so physicians often counsel those individuals to reduce their intake of coffee.  Where the One Step Beyond comes in is when those same cardiologists tell patients who have pathological rhythm disturbances (as opposed to palpitations) not to drink coffee, also.  This study shows that drinking 4 or more cups a day lowered the risk of hospitalization with an arrhythmia by 7%.

The point to note is, it's too great a leap from "palpitations" or "awareness of fast heartbeat" to "abnormal fast heart beat".   Time to take a step back and re-evaluate: when the coffee variable is applied to both situations, there are different consequences, weakening the link between "when your heart goes fast", and "when there's something wrong that makes your heart go fast."

I don't have the whole paper.  Here is an abstract, but it's waaaaay down on page 216 of the conference program, abstract #P461..  For a simple-minded take on the study, Bloomberg (Mar 2) has an article.

As for the data, this was a survery of ~130,000 patients from 1978-85.  Compared to non-drinkers, the adjusted relative risk (RR) of hospitalization for arrhythmia among those who drank <1 cup a day was 1.0, for 1-3 cups a day 0.9 (but confidence interval was 0.8-1.0).  But for those who drank 4+ cups a day the RR was 0.8 (0.7-0.9 CI).  The p value for this result was 0.001.  So we're talking real here.

What's the mechanism?  Beats the hell outta me.  Researchers have been trying to besmirch the reputation of coffee for decades...without success.  We know it reduces risk of Parkinson's, and this study knocks another brick out from under those who would impugn the Nectar of the Gods.

Yawn...  I'm gettin' sleepy.  Maybe an anti-arrhytmic shot of espresso would help.

Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own.

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