Heart of the matter – Is caffeine bad for my heart?

By Sarah Noone Nutrition News   |   7th Jun 2019

Our expert dietitian Sarah Noone looks at the evidence around caffeine and heart health.

There are a lot of mixed messages around caffeine and heart health, one day it’s a “magic cure” while the next there are concerns around its safety. So, what is the truth when it comes to caffeine and your heart?

Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in tea, coffee and chocolate. It is often also added to other products such as energy drinks and cola soft drinks.

While there is often concern about the links between caffeine and heart health, a moderate amount of caffeine (equivalent of four or five cups of tea or coffee a day) should be fine for most of us in the general healthy population*

The research shows that this moderate level of caffeine intake should not have a negative impact on your heart health. However, it is important to remember that caffeine is not just found in tea or coffee.

Although drinking caffeinated drinks has been shown to increase blood pressure, this effect is typically temporary and is reduced over time.

"What I would always say to patients is that it is probably more important to think about what you are adding to your tea and coffee,"

Sarah Noone, Dietitian , Irish Heart Foundation

However, some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, and, for some, it can trigger heart palpitations (a feeling that your heart is pounding). If this is the case for you, then it would be sensible to minimise your caffeine intake.

With children there is not enough evidence to decide on a safe level of caffeine and it would not be ethical to test this in a research setting. However, children are more sensitive to caffeine and can have an exaggerated response, so it would be sensible to limit their intake.

If you need to reduce your intake of caffeine why not try decaffeinated coffee or tea or caffeine free options like herbal teas?

What I would always say to patients is that it is probably more important to think about what you are adding to your tea and coffee.

Are you adding sugar, syrups, cream, whole milk? These add extra calories and saturated fat which could result in unwanted weight gain and an increase in bad cholesterol levels. Simple changes like swapping from a whole to a skimmed milk, skipping the cream or gradually reducing down on the sugar or syrups you add, will all be beneficial for your heart health.

Energy drinks and cola type soft drinks are becoming particularly popular with teenagers and young people. A 250ml can of energy drink contains about the similar amount of caffeine in a cup of instant coffee (many come in a 500ml standard can). However, there are a number of other reasons it is important to limit these drinks; they can contain significant amounts of sugar and calories and because they are so easy to drink in large quantities, can lead to unwanted weight gain.

If you feel like you need to cut down on caffeine check out some tips below:

*Please note these recommendations are for the general healthy population. There are certain groups where these recommendations would differ. For example, pregnant women should have no more than 200mg of caffeine per day throughout their pregnancy.

For more information and tips on maintaining a healthy heart please see here 

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