That Occasional Cup Of
Coffee Can Be Fatal
By Helen Rumbelow
The occasional after-dinner cup of coffee is worse for the heart than drinking it every day, cardiologists say.
The research is the first to show that the surge in blood pressure that a non-coffee-drinker experiences, even in decaffeinated coffee, is worse than the potential long-term effects on a coffee addict.
Caffeine is not the culprit, but a range of other ingredients in coffee that cause the blood vessels to contract. Frequent drinkers are used to these effects, but in non-coffee-drinkers the sudden strain on their heart increases their risk of a heart attack, Roberto Corti said yesterday at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Amsterdam.
He said that unless people drank coffee every day, the healthiest option was never to drink any, even decaffeinated.
"In habitual coffee-drinkers, cutting down on coffee is not a good way to reduce their blood pressure," Dr Corti said. "On the other hand, non-habitual drinkers would do well to avoid coffee completely, as we believe occasional cups increase their risk of heart disease."
Dr Corti studied the effect on 15 volunteers of giving them a triple espresso, a decaffeinated triple espresso and an intravenous solution of caffeine. When they were given caffeine they experienced an elevated heart-rate and trembling hands.
Dr Corti, a cardiologist at the University of Zurich, found, however, that the blood pressure of the non-habitual coffee-drinkers rose by six times as much as that of those who drank it habitually.
He was interested to see that this did not occur when the patients were injected with caffeine, but that decaffeinated coffee had the same damaging effect.
This is because coffee is full of ingredients called theobromines, which give the drink its flavour but also act as stimulants that have powerful effects on the heart.
But Chocolate Is Fine
A chocolate a day can keep the doctor away, nutrition experts said yesterday. It was the moment chocoholics have been waiting for.
Three doctors claimed that it was as good for the heart as red wine, tea or apples - if not better. Their research, presented to the European Society of Cardiology, showed that chocolate reduces the risk of blood clotting, protects against stress on the heart and relaxes blood vessels. Those benefits were the same as for very mild aspirin and proved to be better than red wine, scientists from the University of California, Davis said.
Dr Harold Schmitz, a nutrition expert, said that, although calorific, chocolate is high in antioxidants - natural chemicals that protect against disease. A 40g bar of dark chocolate contained double the amount in a glass of red wine. His studies also showed that chocolate was rich in a strong antioxidant, procyanidin.
All the research presented was funded by Mars, which is branding three of its products - M, Galaxy and the Mars Bar - with a heart-shaped logo that shows the bars are high in procyanidin.
Professor Charles George, the British Heart Foundation's medical director, said that the industry had yet to prove that chocolate prevented heart disease and he added that fatty products should be consumed in moderation.
"We advocate a balanced diet, with five portions of fruit and vegetables a day," he said.
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