The link between coffee and heart attacks

A study from the University of Toronto led by Dr. M.C. Cornelis brings us new information about the link between coffee consumption and the risk of heart attack. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this study concerns itself, first, with a genetic distinction. A gene sequence determines production of the caffeine metabolizer CPYIA2 enzyme. Some people simply produce more and some produce less. Those with more CYP1A2 enzyme digest caffeine faster than those with less; the amount can be found out by testing a person’s DNA.

The researchers chose 2,057,000 participants from Costa Rica and compensated for age, sex, and risk factors (e.g., smoking and diet). A questionnaire surveyed how much coffee participants drank daily between 1994 and 2004.

The researchers divided the data into four groups: participants who drank less than one cup per day; one cup; two to three cups; and four or more cups per day. Participants who drank less than one cup per day during the decade in question composed the control group.

Cornelis and his team found that participants in all groups who had more CYP1A2 did not show a significantly higher risk of heart attack than the control group. And for those who drank only one cup of coffee per day, neither genetic distinction resulted in a higher risk of heart attack. The two groups that consumed the most coffee and who had less caffeine-digesting enzyme had significantly higher rates of non-fatal heart attacks.

The results clearly show that the less CPY1A2 enzyme you produce and the more coffee you drink, the more you are at risk of heart attack. For those of us without the good fortune of DNA testing, it’s ultimately a question of gambling with your genetics and lifestyle choices.