- A study has found a link between coffee drinking and longer life.
- It also found coffee was associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Two to three cups per day appeared to be the sweet spot for these benefits.
- Experts say moderate coffee consumption can be a part of a heart-healthy lifestyle.
- They note, however, that too much coffee may increase the risk of adverse effects.
New research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology has found an association between coffee drinking and living longer.
The study also found that there was a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Specifically, this effect was observed among those who drank around two to three cups of coffee per day.
All types of coffee, including ground, instant, and decaf, appeared to provide this health benefit.
According to the authors, the goal of the study was to look at how drinking various types of coffee might impact the risk for episodes of irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia), cardiovascular disease, and death.
To conduct the study, the researchers used data from the UK Biobank, a large, ongoing study that provides researchers with medical and genetic data from around 500,000 volunteers between ages 40 and 69.
The median age of the people involved in the study was 58. Women made up 55.3% of the group.
The types of cardiovascular disease included were coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, and ischemic stroke.
Altogether, 449,564 people who did not have arrhythmia or cardiovascular disease at the start of the study were recruited.
Respondents were asked about how many cups of coffee they drank on a daily basis, as well as what type of coffee they drank. They were then placed in a category based on their level of consumption. There was also a group of non-coffee drinkers for comparison.
Medical records and death records were used to assess how the groups did over time.
The researchers found at follow-up that all types of coffee were associated with a reduced risk for death from any cause. In addition, the greatest reduction in risk was observed in those who drank two to three cups per day.
Ground coffee was linked to the greatest reduction in risk, with a 27% lower likelihood of death compared to those who did not drink coffee.
Instant coffee provided the least reduction in risk at 11%. However, all types of coffee appeared to provide some protection.
When it came to cardiovascular disease, all types of coffee were linked to a reduction in cardiovascular incidents. This effect was also seen at a consumption level of two to three cups per day.
Ground coffee again provided the most reduction in risk at 20%, while decaf provided the least reduction at 6%.
Both instant coffee and ground were associated with fewer incidents of arrhythmia. However, decaf did not seem to provide any benefit. The lowest level of risk was seen at four to five cups of ground coffee, while the effect was seen at a consumption level of two to three cups of instant coffee.
Dr. Debabrata Mukherjee, chairman of the department of internal medicine and professor of internal medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso, who was not involved in this study, summarized: “This and other available data suggests that drinking modest amounts of coffee (two to three cups a day) of all types have some cardioprotective effects.”
Mukherjee said that, while the study itself does not address this question, it might have to do with the presence of caffeine in coffee.
“Caffeine has antiarrhythmic properties,” said Mukherjee, “particularly through the inhibition of adenosine (a chemical found in human cells) receptors. Endogenous adenosine shortens refractory periods in both the atrium (upper chamber of the heart) and ventricle (lower chamber of the heart) and consequently increases the risk of arrhythmias; and by blocking adenosine receptors, caffeinated coffee may mitigate the effects of endogenous (present in the body) adenosine and protect against arrhythmias.”
He said that this could explain why caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee affected the incidence of arrhythmias in this study differently.
Mukherjee further noted that, while caffeine is the most well-known constituent in coffee, it actually contains over 100 biologically active components.
“It is possible that some of the non-caffeinated compounds may be responsible for the benefits observed with coffee drinking, i.e., less cardiovascular disease, and improved survival,” he explained.
Dr. Jim Liu, a cardiologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, advises that it’s best to drink coffee in moderation, noting that, it’s generally safe and also has potential benefits for long-term cardiovascular health.
“However, coffee is a stimulant,” he cautions, “and can have short-term effects such as increased blood pressure and palpitations.”
“If someone is drinking excessive amounts or to the point that they are feeling poorly from bothersome palpitations, sleep deprivation, or other adverse effects, then it would be best to cut back,” he added.
He also advises that people should be aware of what they are adding to their coffee, such as sugar. “Some coffee beverages and preparations contain large amounts of sugar and are high in calories, and consuming a lot of those may counteract the benefits of the actual coffee itself.”
When it comes to people who don’t already drink coffee, however, Liu said he would advise that people only drink it if they want to or enjoy it.
“Certainly, drinking coffee has been associated with other health benefits, but if coffee drinking isn’t for you, I wouldn’t force it just for the health benefits.”
If you do opt to drink coffee in light of its potential health benefits, Liu pointed out that there are some side effects to be aware of.
“Coffee is a stimulant and can cause short-term effects such as increased blood pressure and palpitations. It may also have adverse effects on sleep,” he said.
If you are taking medications for hypertension, there could be some concerns as well. Caffeine may reduce the effect of some blood pressure medications, said Liu.
Mukherjee agreed with Liu’s statements, noting that “all types [of coffee] have some cardioprotective effects and can be enjoyed as part of a heart-healthy behavior.”
“I would suggest that folks enjoy their coffee or tea (based on preference) and live a healthy lifestyle,” he said.