Drinking coffee 'protects the heart'
A strong cup of coffee really could be a lifesaver, claim scientists, after they found that caffeine may protect the heart.
Researchers have discovered that regular coffee drinkers are less likely to be admitted to hospital with irregular heart beats or rhythms.
And the more cups they drink a day, the less likely they are to suffer from the condition.
The study by US medical giant Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research in California is the latest to find that coffee in all but very high doses seems to protect the body from heart disease and conditions.
Dr Arthur Klatsky, a cardiologist, and his team followed 130,054 men and women, aged 18 to 90, and found that those who drank four or more cups of coffee each day had an 18pc lower risk of hospitalisation for heart rhythm disturbances.
Those who reported drinking one to three cups each day had a seven per cent reduction in risk compared to abstainers.
While the link did not automatically suggest that coffee alone was responsible for the link, it did appear to show coffee did no harm, Dr Klatsky told the American Heart Association's 50th Annual Conference in San Francisco
Heart disturbances are suffered by up to two million people in Britain and can lead to loss of consciousness and seizures.
"Coffee drinking is related to lower risk of hospitalisation for rhythm problems, but the association does not prove cause and effect, or that coffee has a protective effect," Dr Klatsky said
"However, these data might be reassuring to people who drink moderate amounts of coffee that their habit is not likely to cause a major rhythm disturbance."
Other explanations for the association might include other traits of coffee drinkers such as exercise or dietary habits.
Additionally, some people with heart rhythm problems often are not admitted to hospital.
The results follow a raft of other research which showed that coffee appears to have a protective effect on the heart.
A report from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in Spain showed that drinking three cups of coffee a day could reduce the risk of women dying from heart disease by a quarter.
Another showed that men who drank five or more cups of coffee were 44pc less likely to die from the disease.
Drinking two to three cups of coffee a day was also shown to reduce the risk of a stroke by almost 20 pc.
During the latest study about 2pc (3,317) were admitted to hospital for rhythm disturbances, 50pc of those were for atrial fibrillation, a lack of co-ordination between the chambers of the heart and the most common heart rhythm problem.
The 18pc reduction in risk was consistent among men and women, different ethnic groups, smokers and non-smokers. It also was similar for various rhythm problems including heart flutters.
14pc of the people in the study drank less than one cup of coffee a day, 42pc drank one to three cups of coffee a day and 17pc reported drinking four cups or more each day. Only 27pc of the people in the study were not coffee drinkers.