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Death by Coffee

Oh, well, gotta die of something. Might as well be a tall latte.

COFFEE drinkers who have more than three cups a day could significantly increase their chances of suffering a heart attack.

Research suggests that some people who carry a particular variation of a gene cannot process caffeine as quickly as other people. Such individuals could be 60 per cent more likely to have a heart attack if they drink large amounts of coffee.

It is not known how common the gene variation is in the British population. Some studies indicate that up to a third of Caucasians may carry it.

Canadian scientists have discovered that people with the slower metabolism gene variation, known as *1F, run a dramatically higher risk even if they drink only two cups a day.

Researchers found that heavy coffee drinkers under the age of 50 were four times as likely to have an attack compared with those who had one cup a day.

However, the study suggests conversely that people with a different variant of the same CYP1A2 gene, called *1A, could benefit from coffee. It found that for these individuals the drink might offer some protection against heart attacks, although the figures are less statistically significant. Drinking one cup a day appeared to halve the odds of a heart attack for these individuals, while drinking two or three cups cut the risk by about 40 per cent.

So how much more likely are to you to actually have a heart attack if you’re in the 33% or so of the population that has this gene? Well, it looks like quite a bit.

The latest study, carried out by Dr El-Sohemy and colleagues, and involving more than 4,000 people in Costa Rica, suggests that individuals with the specific variant gene who have two to three cups of coffee a day increase their chances of suffering a heart attack by 36 per cent. For those who drink four cups or more, the risk is raised by 64 per cent.

The article doesn’t say how common the gene is that causes you to benefit from coffee. I guess I’ll have to hope I’m one of those people, or that I at least fall into the 2/3 of the population that doesn’t have the bad gene.

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