Caffeine in moderation could be good for the heart

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At Buddy Brew Coffee in Tampa, a few steps from roasting beans, you'll find baristas serving up signature drinks. 

But whether you like coffee or tea, there's a common ingredient many there crave - caffeine.

People we talked with said taking away their daily dose of 2-6 cups often leads to fatigue, problems functioning, depression and headaches - all common signs of withdrawal. 

Dr. Michael Fradley is a cardiologist at USF Health in Tampa. He specializes in heart rhythm disorders. We asked him to help us research the health effects of caffeine on the heart. 

"I was very surprised," Fradley confessed.

Surprised because caffeine studies, even in people with heart rhythm problems, or congestive heart failure, didn't seem to have a major effect. 

In one study, caffeine was even dripped into veins of cardiac patients through an IV.

"It was found that there was no increase in the rates of their rhythm disturbances before caffeine infusion, and after caffeine infusion," Fradley said. 

And it may come as a surprise, but Fradley says some may actually benefit from a little caffeine boost.

"If you're drinking a reasonable amount of coffee or tea a day, you may be actually be deriving some beneficial cardiovascular effects," he explained.

Of course, how much one should consume differs for each person, and should be discussed with their doctor,  but studies seem to point to six cups a day or less.

On the flip side caffeine may increase blood pressure, cause anxiety or interact with medications. Too much coffee may also raise bad cholesterol, a problem that is fixed by simply using a coffee filter.
But other sources of caffeine that also contain sugar or other stimulants - like energy drinks - may put patients at risk

"One of our concerns with other beverages like energy drinks is, it's not the caffeine that causes some of the concerns and problems, but it's the other chemicals in conjunction with the caffeine that may be causing cardiovascular problems," Fradley said.  

He also believes this holds true for caffeine supplements or powders because it's easier to ingest more than one should. But that can also happen when you drink too much coffee.    

Daily coffee and tea drinkers we spoke to said, although it was rare, and usually associated with studying for exams, they felt shaky and "wired" after consuming too much caffeine.