Coffe and nuts protect against common heart conditions, research shows.
One study found that three cups of coffee a day significantly reduced the risk of abnormal heart rhythm.
This is despite the fact that many doctors advise patients with this condition to avoid coffee in case it worsens symptoms.
A second study showed that three portions of nuts a week reduced the risk of atrial fibrillation – also known as heart flutter – by a fifth. Researchers believe that nuts are an important source of vitamin E, antioxidants and healthy fats, including omega 3, which prevent arteries becoming clogged.
The caffeine in coffee, meanwhile, blocks the release of a chemical called adenosine, which causes an abnormal heart rhythm.
For the study on coffee, Australian scientists examined previous research involving 334,500 adults.
Those who drank three or more cups of coffee a day were up to 13 % less likely to suffer a type of abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation. And they were no more likely to suffer another type of abnormal heart beat called ventricular arrhythmias, say the researchers, from Melbourne.
Dr Peter Kistler, the lead author, whose study is published in the journal JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology, said: ‘There is a public perception, often based on anecdotal experience, that caffeine is a common acute trigger for heart rhythm problems. Our extensive review suggests this is not the case.
‘In numerous population-based studies, patients who regularly consume coffee and tea at moderate levels have a lower lifetime risk of developing heart rhythm problems and possibly improved survival.’
The research on nuts involved 61,000 adults aged 45 to 83 and was carried out by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Those who ate nuts three times a week were 18 % less likely to develop atrial fibrillation.
Dr Susanna Larsson, who led the study, published in the journal Circulation, pointed out the health benefits of nuts. But she added that adults who ate them tended to be healthier generally with good diets and regular exercise.
Most patients with heart rhythm problems can lead normal lives as long as these are diagnosed promptly and treated. But the conditions can cause strokes, heart attacks and sudden death if undetected.