Good news for coffee lovers. Important new studies being presented this weekend at the American College of Cardiology’s 71st Annual Scientific Session, show that drinking coffee — particularly two to three cups a day — is not only associated with a lower risk of heart disease and dangerous heart rhythms but also with living longer.
According to Dr Peter M. Kistler, professor and head of arrhythmia research at the Alfred Hospital and Baker Heart Institute in Melbourne, Australia, because coffee can quicken heart rate, some people worry that drinking it could trigger or worsen certain heart issues.
“This is where general medical advice to stop drinking coffee may come from. But our data suggest that daily coffee intake shouldn’t be discouraged, but rather included as a part of a healthy diet for people with and without heart disease,“We found coffee drinking had either a neutral effect – meaning that it did no harm – or was associated with benefits to heart health,” he said.
Kistler and his team used data from the UK BioBank, a large-scale prospective database with health information from over half a million people who were followed for at least 10 years.
They looked at varying levels of coffee consumption ranging from up to a cup to more than six cups a day and the relationship with heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke; and total and heart-related deaths among people both with and without cardiovascular disease.
Patients were grouped by how much coffee they reported drinking each day ranging from 0-5 cups/day. Coffee drinking was assessed from questionnaires completed upon entry into the registry. Overall, they either found no effect or, in many cases, significant reductions in cardiovascular risk after controlling for exercise, alcohol, smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure that could also play a role in heart health and longevity.
For the first study, researchers examined data from 382,535 individuals without known heart disease to see whether coffee drinking played a role in the development of heart disease or stroke during the 10 years of follow-up.
In general, having two to three cups of coffee a day was associated with the greatest benefit, translating to a 10-15 per cent lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, heart failure, a heart rhythm problem, or dying for any reason.
The risk of stroke or heart-related death was lowest among people who drank one cup of coffee a day. The maximum benefit was seen among people drinking two to three cups a day with less benefit seen among those drinking more or less.
The second study included 34,279 individuals who had some form of cardiovascular disease at baseline. Coffee intake at two to three cups a day was associated with lower odds of dying compared with having no coffee.
Of the 24,111 people included in the analysis who had an arrhythmia at baseline, drinking coffee was associated with a lower risk of death.
Although two to three cups of coffee a day seemed to be the most favorable overall, people shouldn’t increase their coffee intake, particularly if it makes them feel anxious or uncomfortable.
In a third study, researchers looked at whether there were any differences in the relationship between coffee and cardiovascular disease depending on whether someone drank instant or ground coffee or caffeinated or decaf.
They found that two to three cups a day is associated with the lowest risk of arrhythmias, blockages in the heart’s arteries, stroke, or heart failure regardless of whether they had ground or instant coffee. The findings suggest caffeinated coffee is preferable across the board, and there are no cardiovascular benefits to choosing decaf over-caffeinated coffees.