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Surprising findings about coffee presented at world′s biggest gathering of heart specialists

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MILAN – Coffee’s bad, then it’s good, then … it’s practically a health food! Apparently, it’s good for the heart. Want to lower your risk of heart failure over the long term? Go ahead and have a few cups, as long as the coffee is black. So, have we answered the age-old question once and for all?

Another win for coffee consumption

Research presented at the annual European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress on 27 August indicates that drinking up to three cups of coffee a day may keep your heart healthy. The researchers mined UK Biobank data from over 468 000 British participants with no signs of heart disease. The average age was 56, and nearly 56 % were women.

To examine the subjects’ coffee drinking behaviours, they were divided into three groups: no regular consumption, up to three cups a day, and more than three cups daily. The research team adjusted for factors such as age, sex, weight, height, smoking status, physical activity and medical history.

Participants who were moderate drinkers of coffee were found to be less likely to experience early death from any cause compared to non-coffee drinkers. In contrast to non-coffee drinkers, people who drank up to 3 cups per day were at 12 % lower risk of death from any cause, 17 % lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and 21 % lower risk of stroke.

Coffee lovers unite! A wellspring of good news

“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,” commented Dr Judit Simon of the Heart and Vascular Centre, Semmelweis University in Budapest, in an ESC press release.

“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.” Dr Simon, who presented the findings at the ESC Congress, added: “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.”

Using cardiac magnetic resonance imaging scans from over 30 000 participants, the scientists also investigated the connection between coffee consumption and heart structure.

“The imaging analysis indicated that compared with participants who did not drink coffee regularly, daily consumers had healthier sized and better functioning hearts,” explained Dr Simon. “This was consistent with reversing the detrimental effects of ageing on the heart.”

Dr Simon concluded: “Our findings suggest that coffee consumption of up to 3 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.”

The research could offer “more details potentially … about what types of coffee and what dose is optimal and perhaps what mechanisms are involved in relation to changes to the heart,” Rob van Dam, professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at George Washington University in the United States, told ‘USA Today’. “Overall, the picture is quite positive for coffee consumption, particularly if you drink it without too much cream or sugar, of course.”