Regularly drinking coffee may help to protect your heart
Drinking three cups of coffee a day is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Whether it’s a black Americano, the finest espresso in the world, or a triple venti no foam soy milk latte with an extra shot, drinking your daily cup of Joe may help to lower your risk of stroke and fatal heart disease.
Researchers at the Heart and Vascular Centre, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary have found that drinking up to three cups of coffee a day may help protect your cardiovascular system.
The team studied data from nearly 500,000 people registered in the UK Biobank with an average age of 56 and no signs of heart disease at the time of recruitment. They divided them into three categories according to their coffee drinking habits – non-drinkers, up to three-cup-a-day drinkers, and more than three-cup-a-day drinkers.
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When adjusted for influencing factors such as age, sex, weight, height, physical activity, blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, socioeconomic status, and usual intake of alcohol, meat, tea, fruit and vegetables, they found that three-cup-a-day drinkers had a 12 per cent lower risk of death from all causes, a 17 per cent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and a 21 per cent lower risk of stroke.
“To our knowledge, this is the largest study to systematically assess the cardiovascular effects of regular coffee consumption in a population without diagnosed heart disease,” said study author Dr Judit Simon.
“Our results suggest that regular coffee consumption is safe, as even high daily intake was not associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes and all-cause mortality after a follow-up of 10 to 15 years.
“Moreover, 0.5 to 3 cups of coffee per day was independently associated with lower risks of stroke, death from cardiovascular disease, and death from any cause.”
To further investigate the effect, the researchers used data from more than 30,000 participants in the UK Biobank who had undergone magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to determine the structure and functioning capacity of their hearts.
“The imaging analysis indicated that compared with participants who did not drink coffee regularly, daily consumers had healthier sized and better functioning hearts. This was consistent with reversing the detrimental effects of ageing on the heart,” said Simon.
“Our findings suggest that coffee consumption of up to three cups per day is associated with favourable cardiovascular outcomes. While further studies are needed to explain the underlying mechanisms, the observed benefits might be partly explained by positive alterations in cardiac structure and function.”
Reader Q&A: Is it possible to drink too much tea?
Tea contains natural antioxidants called polyphenols which have many positive effects on the body. For instance, drinking more than three cups of tea a day may reduce the risk of a heart attack.
The 40mg of caffeine per cup (roughly half as much as coffee) won’t have any impact on your health until you get to at least eight cups per day – so you should probably stop at that point.
But it’s possible to take anything to extremes. In 2013, a US woman lost all her teeth due to fluoride poisoning from tea. She was drinking a pitcher of iced tea every day for 17 years, and each pitcher was reportedly brewed with 100 to 150 tea bags!
Jason is the commissioning editor for BBC Science Focus. He holds an MSc in physics and was named Section Editor of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors in 2019. He has been reporting on science and technology for more than a decade. During this time, he's walked the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider, watched Stephen Hawking deliver his Reith Lecture on Black Holes and reported on everything from simulation universes to dancing cockatoos. He looks after the magazine’s and website’s news sections and makes regular appearances on the Instant Genius Podcast.