A new study, published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has suggested that coffee consumption habits could be largely driven by your cardiovascular health, according to Medscape Cardiology.

An examination of more than 400,000 people has shown that those with high blood pressure, angina (chest pain), or arrhythmias (heart rhythm disorders) drank less coffee than those who had none of these medical conditions. Most people drank decaffeinated coffee.

Lead investigator of the study Dr. Elina Hyppönen of the University of South Australia, Adelaide, said that this predisposition for avoiding coffee is based on genetics.

She told theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology, “If your body is telling you not to drink that extra cup of coffee, there’s likely a reason why.”

Dr. Hyppönen explained, “People drink coffee as a pick-me-up when they’re feeling tired, or because it tastes good, or simply because it’s part of their daily routine, but what we don’t recognize is that people subconsciously self-regulate safe levels of caffeine based on how high their blood pressure is, and this is likely a result of a protective genetic mechanism.”

“And this means that someone who drinks a lot of coffee is likely more genetically tolerant of caffeine, as compared to someone who drinks very little,” she added. “In addition, we’ve known from past research that when people feel unwell, they tend to drink less coffee. This type of phenomenon, where disease drives behavior, is called reverse causality.”

Dr. Hyppönen and team wrote in their findings that participants with essential hypertension (high blood pressure), angina, or arrhythmia were “all more likely to drink less caffeinated coffee and to be non-habitual or decaffeinated coffee drinkers compared with those who did not report related symptoms.”

They also noted that participants with higher systolic and diastolic BP based on their genetics drank less caffeinated coffee at baseline, “with consistent genetic evidence to support a causal explanation across all methods.”

Dr. Hyppönen explained, “These results have 2 major implications. Firstly, they show that our bodies can regulate behavior in ways that we may not realize and that if something does not feel good to us, there is likely to be a reason why. Second, our results show that our health status in part regulates the amount of coffee we drink.”

“This is important because when disease drives behavior, it can lead to misleading health associations in observational studies, and indeed, create a false impression for health benefits if the group of people who do not drink coffee also includes more people who are unwell,” she added.

“Our study also highlights the uncertainty that underlies the claimed health benefits of coffee,” she continued, “but at the same time, it gives a positive message about the ability of our body to regulate our level of coffee consumption in a way that helps us avoid adverse effects.” The article was published on Medscape Medical News.