Among people with no diagnosis of heart disease, regular coffee consumption of 0.5 to 3 cups of coffee a day was associated with a decreased risk of death from heart disease, stroke and early death from any cause when compared to non-coffee drinkers.
The study, presented Friday at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology, examined the coffee drinking behavior of over 468,000 people who participate in the UK Biobank Study, which houses in-depth genetic and health information on more than a half a million Brits.
Compared with people who didn’t drink coffee, the April analysis found the risk of heart failure over time decreased between 5% and 12% for each cup of coffee consumed each day in two of the studies.
The risk of heart failure remained the same for drinking no coffee or one cup per day in the third study. But when people drank two or more cups of black coffee a day the risk decreased by about 30%, the analysis found.
“The association between caffeine and heart failure risk reduction was surprising,” said senior author Dr. David Kao, medical director of the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, in April.
“Coffee and caffeine are often considered by the general population to be ‘bad’ for the heart because people associate them with palpitations, high blood pressure, etc. The consistent relationship between increasing caffeine consumption and decreasing heart failure risk turns that assumption on its head,” Kao said in a statement.
In the April study, the benefit did not extend to decaffeinated coffee. Instead, the analysis found an association between decaf coffee and an increased risk for heart failure.
“While unable to prove causality, it is intriguing that these three studies suggest that drinking coffee is associated with a decreased risk of heart failure and that coffee can be part of a healthy dietary pattern if consumed plain, without added sugar and high fat dairy products such as cream,” said registered dietitian Penny Kris-Etherton, immediate past chairperson of the American Heart Association’s Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Council Leadership Committee, in a statement in April. She was not involved with the research.
A bit of caution
Many studies on coffee are done only on drinking black coffee. However, adding dairy, sugars, flavors or nondairy creamers can add a lot calories, sugar and fat, which could negate coffee’s heart-healthy benefits, the AHA advised.
An additional caveat: In most studies, a cup of coffee is only 8 ounces. But the standard “grande” cup at the coffee shop is 16 ounces.
How you brew your coffee can also affect the benefits of coffee for your health. Filtered coffee catches a compound called cafestol that exists in the oily part of coffee. Cafestol can increase your bad cholesterol or LDL (low-density lipoproteins).
However, if you use a French press, Turkish coffee maker or the boil your coffee (as is often done in Scandinavian countries), cafestol is not removed.
And, finally, coffee’s benefits do not apply to children — even adolescents should not drink colas, coffees, energy drinks or other beverages with any amount of caffeine, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.