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Jul 18, 2013

Coffee and Heart Health

Studies suggest coffee helps protect our hearts, rather than harm them.

Let’s be honest—who doesn’t enjoy a cup of coffee (or two) in the morning, afternoon, or somewhere in between? Each day, Americans drink more than 400 million cups of coffee, and for regular coffee drinkers, kicking the habit can be tough. But according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, we shouldn’t feel guilty about our coffee drinking habits as it may help protect our hearts.

This paper reviewed recent research on the subject, looking into the impact of coffee consumption on a number of markers of heart health like blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. And here’s what they found:

Blood pressure: Drinking coffee—as much as six cups a day—does not increase blood pressure levels long-term.

Blood sugar: The antioxidants in coffee (caffeinated and decaf) aid in blood sugar control, reducing risk for type 2 diabetes. Even drinking a small amount of coffee each day can reduce risk for type 2 diabetes, and drinking as many as six or more cups a day may further reduce risk.

Cholesterol: Coffee contains a cholesterol-raising compound called diterpenes, but the concentration of this compound depends on how the coffee is prepared. Boiled coffee has a higher concentration of diterpenes, which can increase total cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol levels. Filtered coffee, however, has no effect on cholesterol levels.

Risk for irregular heartbeat: Despite initial concerns that caffeine may increase risk for an irregular heartbeat, called arrhythmia, drinking coffee appears to have no impact on arrhythmia risk. In fact, drinking coffee on a daily basis may actually reduce arrhythmia risk.

Cardiovascular risk: Moderate coffee consumption (1-2 cups a day or more) may decrease risk for heart disease and stroke.

Risk of death: Drinking coffee (caffeinated or decaf) may decrease risk of death from both heart disease and other causes.

For the majority of Americans who drink coffee regularly, these findings are very reassuring. At the very least, coffee consumption does not appear to have a negative effect on heart health and in some ways, may help protect our hearts. Of course, coffee can have its risks as well. Some people experience anxiety, palpitations or trouble sleeping, especially when coffee contains high doses of caffeine. For individuals who experience these side effects, decaffeinated coffee may be a good option. But for most healthy adults, drinking about 3 cups of coffee (about 300 milligrams of caffeine a day) appears to be safe and may boast a number of health benefits.

Read the full article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Questions for You to Consider

  • Is drinking coffee safe for my heart
  • Many studies have shown that drinking coffee on a daily basis is safe for the heart and may actually reduce risk for heart disease. For most healthy adults, moderate coffee consumption can be part of a healthy diet, and for individuals that experience side effects from coffee, decaffeinated coffee can be a useful alternative.

  • Are there drawbacks to drinking a lot of coffee?

  • Although there is strong evidence associating coffee with heart disease, caffeine is a mild stimulant and, as such, can cause a small, temporary rise in blood pressure and heart rate. It can also trigger heartburn and upset stomach in some people. While coffee itself has few or no calories, an extra-large caramel latte is a definite diet buster. Finally, heavy caffeine use can result in the “jitters” during the day and trouble sleeping at night.

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