Coffee, genes and heart attack

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: July 13th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

As medical research has relentlessly documented the health risks of some of the foods that give us the most pleasure, coffee has remained relatively unscathed.

But not so fast, latte lovers.

A study Canadian researchers recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that committed coffee-drinkers with a fairly common genetic trait could be more prone to having a heart attack than those who lack it.

The trait, which appeared in about half of the four-thousand people included in the study, causes caffeine to be processed more slowly by the body, allowing it to linger in the system.

Among these so-called slow metabolizers, drinking two or more cups of coffee a day made them thirty-six percent more likely to have a nonfatal heart attack than those who eschew the brew.

In contrast, for the other half of the people in the study those whose genes led their bodies to metabolize coffee more rapidly… a cup of joe appeared to provide some reduction in heart attack risk.

Previous studies of the effects of coffee and caffeine on cardiovascular health have produced conflicting results. That ambiguity, plus the discovery that coffee has been shown to have healthful antioxidant properties, has helped buoy coffee-drinkers’ spirits.

At present, there’s no easy way to determine if you have the genetic trait. So at least for now, maybe ignorance is bliss, especially when it’s served in a cup and saucer.