Two to three cups of coffee a day “promote” heart health

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New research suggests coffee may be good for us after all (Credits: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Drinking two or three cups of coffee a day may be linked to a reduced risk of heart disease or death, new research suggests.

The results suggest that this association exists for people with and without cardiovascular disease.

The analysis is believed to be the most comprehensive to examine coffee’s potential role in heart disease and death. It indicates that the drink is not associated with new or worsening heart conditions and may actually be good for the heart.

Researchers suggest their findings may allow people with heart disease to drink coffee as part of a healthy diet.

Peter Kistler, director of arrhythmia research at the Alfred Hospital and Baker Heart Institute in Melbourne, Australia – and senior author of the study, said: “Because coffee can speed up the heart rate, some people worry that drinking it could trigger or worsen certain heart problems.

“This is where the general medical advice to stop drinking coffee can come in.

“But our data suggest that daily coffee consumption should not be discouraged, but included as part of a healthy diet for people with and without heart disease.”

“We found that drinking coffee either had a neutral effect — meaning it did no harm — or was associated with heart health benefits.”

Researchers used data from the UK Biobank study – a large database of health information from more than half a million people – to examine different levels of coffee consumption, ranging from as little as one cup to more than six cups a day.

They analyzed this in relation to abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), cardiovascular disease, heart failure and stroke, and total and heart-related deaths in people with and without cardiovascular disease.

The researchers looked at data from 382,535 people with no known heart disease to determine whether coffee drinking played a role in the development of heart disease or stroke during the 10-year follow-up.

They found that, in general, two to three cups of coffee per day was associated with the greatest benefit, with a 10-15% reduced risk of developing coronary artery disease, heart failure, a heart rhythm problem, or dying from any cause.

The risk of stroke or heart-related death was lowest in people who drank one cup of coffee a day.

For new cardiac arrhythmias, maximum benefit was found in those who drank two to three cups of coffee a day, and less benefit in those who drank more or less than that amount.

A second study involved 34,279 people suffering from some form of cardiovascular disease.

In this group, drinking two to three cups of coffee a day was associated with a lower likelihood of death compared to not drinking coffee.

Prof Kistler said: “Clinicians generally have some concern that people with known cardiovascular diseases or arrhythmias continue to drink coffee, so they often play it safe and advise them to stop drinking altogether, fearing it may that it could trigger dangerous heart rhythms,

“But our study shows that drinking coffee regularly is safe and could be part of a healthy diet for people with heart disease.”

Researchers suspect that it’s not the caffeine in coffee beans that’s beneficial, but more than 100 biologically active compounds.

Close-up of a blonde woman holding a cup of coffee with both hands

Bioactive compounds in coffee could be good for us (Picture: Getty)

Among other things, these may help reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity and inhibit the absorption of fat from the gut and block receptors known to be involved in abnormal heart rhythms.

In a third study, researchers looked at whether there were differences in the relationship between coffee and cardiovascular disease, depending on whether someone drank instant or ground coffee, or caffeinated or decaf coffee.

Again, they found that drinking two to three cups a day was associated with the lowest risk of arrhythmias, blockages in the heart arteries, stroke, or heart failure, regardless of whether they drank ground or instant coffee.

Tracy Parker, heart health nutritionist at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study suggests that drinking a few cups of coffee a day shouldn’t affect your heart health – great news for anyone looking to fuel up in the morning.

“The best way to improve your cardiovascular health is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and not focus on how much coffee you drink.

“How you drink your coffee is also important — added syrups, sugar, cream, or tall lattes can all add up in terms of sugar, calories, and saturated fat.

“And if you know you’re sensitive to caffeine, it’s best to limit or avoid it.”

The studies that were not peer-reviewed will be presented at the 71st Annual Scientific Session of the American College of Cardiology.

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Justin Scacco

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