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Medications made with caffeine may double risk of stroke

Friday, July 12, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: medications, caffeine, stroke risk

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(NaturalNews) Taking pharmaceutical drugs with added caffeine could raise your risk of suffering a stroke, but not necessarily because of the caffeine. A new study out of South Korea recently found that people who take over-the-counter pain pills and other medications with added caffeine are up to three times more likely than people not taking such drugs to suffer a stroke.

Published in the journal Stroke, the new study compared 940 adult patients who had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke to other patients who had not suffered a stroke but had been hospitalized. A third group of people who had neither suffered a stroke nor been hospitalized was also included as part of the analysis.

After interviewing the participants from each group about the medications they had taken two weeks prior, the study team determined that, overall, those who had taken a medication containing caffeine were about 250 percent more likely to suffer a stroke than those who had not taken a medication containing caffeine.

This percentage rang true even after accounting for those who drank tea, coffee, and other beverages that contain caffeine, which suggests that the caffeine-containing drugs themselves possess some uniquely inherent danger. Further evidence proving this was made plain by the fact that those who did not drink any caffeine-containing beverages were up the 300 percent more likely than all others to suffer a stroke.

"Even though caffeine-containing medicines appear to increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, it doesn't appear to be the 'caffeine' dose" that is responsible, said Dr. Daniel Woo, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, to reporters. Dr. Woo was not involved in the study. "Folks who drank three cups of coffee per day didn't seem to have a higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke."

Caffeine isn't the problem; it's the drugs

So why the major disparity in health effects between caffeine-containing drugs and caffeine-containing beverages? Researchers are not entirely sure, although they do suspect that other active compounds in the drugs are to blame. Naturally-occurring caffeine in food, after all, is a far cry from the synthetically-added caffeine injected into pharmaceutical drugs, which already come with deadly side effects.

According to Dr. Woo, many of the drugs that contain caffeine, which include cold medicines, pain relievers, and so-called "wake-up" pills, contain other active components that are believed to increase stroke risk. Combined with caffeine, these components could become synergistically more threatening to health.

"Moderate consumption of coffee (1-3 cups per day), which is the main source of caffeine in most populations, has been associated with lower risk of all types of stroke," says Dr. Susanna Larsson, a nutritional epidemiologist from the National Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, noting that caffeine does not appear to be the primary issue.

So the takeaway from this study is that it is probably best to avoid pharmaceutical drugs that contain added caffeine. While their precise mechanism of harm is still largely unknown, caffeine-containing drugs generally do not appear to be safe for human consumption.

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