A team of researchers from Brown University School of Medicine conducted a study of 503 non-fatal heart attack patients in Costa Rica, and found that coffee drinkers ran a higher risk of heart attack. Moderate coffee drinkers -- those who drink two or three cups a day -- ran a 60 percent higher risk of heart attack after drinking a cup of coffee, while little effect was noted among heavy coffee drinkers, who consume four or more cups per day.
The greatest risk of heart attack was for light drinkers -- those who drink up to one cup a day -- whose risk increased by four times with just one cup. In addition, coffee drinkers with three or more other heart disease risk factors, such as obesity and physical inactivity, more than doubled their risk of heart attack after a cup of coffee.
"I'm curious to see if, based on this research, the FDA will now ban coffee," asked Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate. "Because they banned the ephedra herb based on the same tiny risk increase in heart attacks. Both ephedra and caffeine are stimulants. If the FDA acts with consistency, it should now ban coffee and declare it to be 'unsafe at any dose.'"
Professor Ahmed El-Sohemy, Ph.D., an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Toronto, says coffee drinkers with multiple risk factors for heart attack should try to engage in an active lifestyle and remove as many risk factors as possible, since just one cup of coffee "could be the final straw."
El-Sohemy explains, "For those people who are not regular consumers [of coffee] and have other risk factors, getting that jolt of caffeine is probably a jolt to their system. We know that caffeine causes transient increases in blood pressure, so those who are not regular [coffee] consumers are not used to it, and they get that surge and for a vulnerable heart, that could be the trigger."