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March 3, 1975

A Break for the Coffee-Break

JAMA. 1975;231(9):965. doi:10.1001/jama.1975.03240210045018

Ever since its discovery a thousand or so years ago, coffee has been a source of contention. It has brewed antagonisms ranging from religious objections by Orthodox Moslems who regarded it as an intoxicant to imputations of sterilizing and abortifacient effects by some 18th century physicians. A rumored ban on coffee for women provoked Bach into composing his Coffee Cantata. And Ben Jonson called coffee "a loathsome poison—not yet understood."

Apparently it is not yet understood even now. While some investigators link coffee with coronary heart disease, others do not. Paul and co-workers1 reported a positive association between the two. Gould et al2 drew similar conclusions from their observations. A specific relatedness of myocardial infarction to coffee intake has been reported by others.3,4

To be sure, coffee provides ample grounds for supporting such conclusions. Caffeine is known to precipitate ectopic beats and to accelerate the heart rate.