Drinking two to three cups of most types of coffee a day can protect against cardiovascular disease and premature death, a new study has found.
“The results suggest that light to moderate consumption of warm, instant, decaffeinated coffee should be part of a healthy lifestyle,” said study author Peter Kistler, chief of clinical electrophysiology research at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and head of electrophysiology at Alfred. Melbourne Hospital.
The researchers found “significant reductions” in the risk of coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure and stroke for all three types of coffee. However, only ground and instant coffee with caffeine reduced the risk of heart rhythm disturbances called arrhythmias. Decaffeinated coffee did not reduce this risk, according to the study published Wednesday in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Previous studies have also found that moderate amounts of black coffee—between 3 and 5 cups per day—reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes, liver disease and prostate cancer.
“This manuscript adds to the evidence from observational trials linking moderate coffee consumption with cardioprotection, which looks promising,” said Charlotte Mills, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Reading in the UK, in a statement.
However, this study, like many in the past, was only observational in nature and therefore cannot prove direct cause and effect, added Mills, who was not involved in the research.
“Does coffee make you healthy or do naturally healthier people consume coffee?” he asked. “Randomized controlled trials are needed to prove the relationship between coffee and cardiovascular health.”
The study used data from the UK Biobank, a database of the coffee consumption preferences of almost 450,000 adults without arrhythmia or other cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. They were divided into four groups: those who enjoyed caffeinated ground coffee, those who chose decaffeinated caffeine, those who preferred caffeinated instant coffee and those who did not drink coffee.
After an average of 12.5 years, the researchers reviewed medical and death records for reports of arrhythmia, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and death. After adjusting for age, diabetes, ethnicity, hypertension, obesity, obstructive sleep apnea, sex, smoking status, and tea and alcohol consumption, the researchers found that all types of coffee were associated with reduced death from any cause.
The benefit of caffeinated and decaffeinated caffeine “may suggest that it’s not just caffeine that may have a possible risk reduction,” said Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and senior lecturer at Aston University Medical School in Birmingham. United Kingdom, in a statement. He did not participate in the study.
“Caffeine is the most well-known ingredient in coffee, but the drink contains more than 100 biologically active ingredients,” said Kistler, who holds appointments as professor of medicine at the University of Melbourne and Monash University.
“It is possible that non-caffeinated compounds are responsible for the positive associations observed between coffee drinking, cardiovascular disease and survival,” Kistler said.
Drinking two to three cups of coffee a day was associated with the greatest reduction in premature death compared to people who didn’t drink coffee, the release said. Consumption of ground coffee reduced the risk of death by 27%, followed by 14% for decaffeinated coffee and 11% for caffeinated instant coffee.
The link between coffee and reduced risk of heart disease and stroke was less strong: drinking two to three cups of coffee a day reduced the risk by 20%, while the same amount of decaffeinated coffee reduced the risk by 6% and instant 9%.
Data varied on the effect of coffee on heart rate: four to five caffeinated cups a day. Ground coffee reduced the risk by 17%, and two to three cups of instant coffee per day reduced the likelihood of having an arrhythmia by 12%, the release said.
A limitation of the study was that coffee consumption was self-reported at one time, said Annette Creedon, a nutrition scientist and manager of the British Nutrition Foundation, which is partly funded by food manufacturers, retailers and food service companies.
“This study had an average follow-up period of 12.5 years, which may have changed many aspects of the participants’ diet and lifestyle,” Creedon said in a statement. He was not part of the investigation.
Also, coffee can cause negative side effects in some people, he added. People with sleep problems or uncontrolled diabetes, for example, should consult their doctor before adding caffeine to their diet.
These negative side effects “may be particularly important for people who are sensitive to the effects of caffeine,” Creedon said. “Therefore, the findings of this study do not indicate that people should start drinking coffee if they are not already drinking it, or that they should increase their consumption.”
Most research focuses on the health benefits of black coffee and doesn’t take into account the added sugar, cream, milk and other processed additives that many people use in their coffee.
“A simple cup of coffee with maybe a little milk is very different to a big latte with added syrup and cream,” Mellor said.
Also, how coffee is brewed can affect its health benefits. Filtered coffee traps a compound called cafestol in the fatty part of the coffee. Cafestol may increase bad cholesterol or LDL (low density lipoprotein).
However, using a French press, a Turkish coffee maker, or boiling coffee (as is commonly done in Scandinavian countries), does not remove cafestol.
And finally, the benefits of coffee do not apply to children; teens also shouldn’t drink cola, coffee, energy drinks, or other beverages with high amounts of caffeine, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.