12 January - 20 June 2016

Drinking coffee is good for the heart

12 March 2015

In the light of current knowledge drinking coffee has its pros and cons and the effect of coffee consumption on cardiovascular health remains controversial. In the article published in the latest journal Heart, Korean researchers provide more arguments that coffee consumption may prevent from cardiovascular diseases (CVD).

Meta-analysis and reviews already showed that moderate coffee consumption (3-5 cups/day) was associated with a decrease risk of CVD, with improved insulin sensitivity, reduced oxidation of low density lipoprotein cholesterol, a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and improved endothelial function. However, there are also data that point towards a link between coffee consumption and increased cholesterol concentration and possibly hypertension. 

The recent study that took place in South Korea included 25,318 healthy men and women with an average age of 41.3 years. Its objective was to investigate the effect of regular coffee consumption on coronary artery calcium (CAC) which is a marker of coronary atherosclerosis, a hardening and narrowing of the arteries, and can predict future coronary heart disease (CHD). 

Yuni Choi and colleagues reported that ‘the association was U-shaped, with participants drinking 3-<5 cup/day having lower prevalence of subclinical coronary atherosclerosis’. The suggested mechanisms of action are a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes (a strong risk factor for atherosclerosis) and improved insulin sensitivity possibly due to the presence of antioxidants such as phenolic compounds that protect from oxidation and inflammation. Interestingly, the researchers didn’t differentiate between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.

The results need to be taken with caution due to potential errors in participants’ self-reported exposure to coffee and other lifestyle factors. Additionally, the population in South Korea may have different lifestyles and diets to population in other countries and the data cannot be extrapolated to other populations. Thus, more large scale and randomised controlled studies are needed to prove causation.

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