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Is Coffee Heart Healthy?

December 18, 2008 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

I was planning on writing a completely new blog today, but then I looked over my notes from yesterday’s blog and realized there was more valuable information to share. So today, I’m going to continue to dispel some common food myths. On the agenda for today is a notorious villain: coffee.

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. We drink it for its pleasurable taste and aroma. We drink it for that boost when we’re feeling sluggish. But we’ve all been told that it just isn’t very good for us. So what’s the truth about coffee? Is it a guilty pleasure? Is it a vice? Should we avoid it altogether? The truth, as is often the case, is not so black and white.

Coffee Coffee vs. Aspirin

It’s quite common for doctors to recommend a daily aspirin to help support healthy circulation and to reduce chronic inflammation. These effects are supposed to help protect us from the risk of a heart attack. But as with most medications, aspirin can and does have certain side effects. And, let’s face it, most people would prefer to drink something tasty that makes them feel good, rather than swallow yet another medication.

Let’s examine if coffee can actually be heart friendly.

Study #1: A crossover study was conducted on ten healthy volunteers. One group drank about 7 oz of regular coffee. The other group took a capsule containing 180 mg of caffeine with 7 oz of water. Blood from both groups was drawn and analyzed. At a separate time, the groups switched and took the opposite form of caffeine – either the coffee or the capsule. Again, their blood was assessed.

The authors of the study found that some of the phytochemicals in coffee were present in the platelets (a component of blood that affects circulation and clotting) of the coffee drinking participants. They also determined that coffee decreased “platelet aggregation” (platelet stickiness and clumping) and therefore improved circulation. They did not find the same effect in the blood of the caffeine capsule taking group. Link – Coffee and Circulation

Coffee and cattle in farm

Study #2: There was a recent study that set out to determine whether coffee consumption promoted endothelial dysfunction. The endothelium is a layer of cells that lines the inner walls of our veins and arteries. Damage to the endothelium contributes to hardening of the arteries and plaque formation. Prior to this study, it was pretty much universally believed that coffee caused harm to the lining of the arteries.

To test this hypothesis, 730 healthy women and 663 women with type-2 diabetes agreed to participate in a study. Their ages ranged from 43-70 years old. Food questionnaires and blood tests where collected over a four year period.

Approximately 75% of both sets of women consumed at least 1 cup of coffee per day. The researchers looked specifically at two markers for inflammation that have been linked to damage of the endothelium. Here’s what they found:

+ In the diabetic women, higher caffeinated coffee intake was associated with lower inflammatory readings. Even decaffeinated coffee afforded some anti-inflammatory benefits, but to a lesser degree.

+ In the healthy women, there was no difference found. In other words, the coffee didn’t help but it didn’t hurt either. Link – Caffeine and Inflammation

Study #3: Ultimately, we just want to know whether eating or drinking something is going to help us stay well and live longer or be the flip side of that coin. This next population study gives us a very optimistic picture of the effects of regular coffee drinking.

1,354 people, ranging from 65 to 96 years of age were analyzed based on their coffee consumption. Of all the people followed, 210 of them died from cardiovascular disease and 118 died from coronary disease over the course of ten years.

A significant reduction in heart related deaths were found in the coffee drinkers that had a systolic blood pressure of under 160mm and a diastolic below 100mm. The researchers estimated the reduction of risk to be about 43% for those consuming coffee versus those that didn’t partake in coffee.

In conclusion the authors stated, “caffeinated coffee consumption was associated with lower risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) mortality and heart valve disease development or progression”. Link – Coffee and Heart Mortality

Improved circulation. Decreased arterial inflammation. A lower risk of heart related deaths in old age. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Is coffee right for you? It depends. You have to look at your entire health picture before deciding on what medicinal foods you should use. For instance, coffee may not be appropriate if you already suffer from high blood pressure or if you have some sort of heart beat irregularity (like a heart arrhythmia). The key is to choose what’s right for your individual health circumstance. Just make sure to decide based on solid evidence rather than myth.

Be well!


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Posted in Food and Drink, Heart Health

7 Comments & Updates to “Is Coffee Heart Healthy?”

  1. mercola Says:

    I have read an article saying that drinking green tea helps to prevent heart diseases. so instead of drinking coffee why not green tea.

  2. JP Says:

    Hello, mercola.

    I’m not saying that you should drink coffee instead of green tea. I personally drink both.

    I just wanted to help provide balance to the health debate surrounding coffee.

    I recently wrote a column about the health benefits of green tea. I think it’s a wonderful drink.


    Be well!


  3. dorothy gardner Says:

    Im active 93, but now have packed arteries,tho been taking EDTA, have good cholestgral but high blood pressure which i keep under control with Rx craetegus ox homeopathic remedey.
    now new twist, when i raise my right hand up, i fall down, not vertigo, or carotid they are ok,so arteries to brain thicking, now doc. wants me to drink cup of fresh coffee every mornng. i never drank coffee at all, im a veggie and into good foods/liquids.hence im puzzled about the coffee. on google some say coffee n/g, others o.k. so how does when decided.

  4. dorothy gardner Says:

    very confused at 93, my doc wants me to drink cup of coffee in morning to help circulation of blood to brain, i never drank coffee. some articles on google say its good for same others say its bad, so im now more confused

  5. JP Says:

    Good day, Dorothy.

    Overall, I believe that coffee is healthy for most people. But the decision about whether to use it needs to be made on a case by case bases with the counsel of health professionals that know your full medical history.

    Feel free to print out the information I’ve written about coffee and share it with your doctor. Then share your concerns about using coffee with your physician and see what they have to say.

    There are other ways of improving circulation to the brain – certain herbal extracts (ginkgo, pine bark extract, etc.) and even mind-body practices such as meditation can help with that. Even using a rocking chair regularly can help. But it would be best if you discussed these options with your health care team before implementing them on your own. There’s not sense in taking any unnecessary risks.

    Be well!


  6. Ashenafi Says:

    Me to belive coffee is good to health.but it depends up on our helath status and for me no life befor coffee.

  7. JP Says:

    Update 05/23/15:


    Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015 May 21.

    Associations of coffee drinking with systemic immune and inflammatory markers.

    BACKGROUND: Coffee drinking has been inversely associated with mortality as well as cancers of the endometrium, colon, skin, prostate, and liver. Improved insulin sensitivity and reduced inflammation are among the hypothesized mechanisms by which coffee drinking may affect cancer risk; however, associations between coffee drinking and systemic levels of immune and inflammatory markers have not been well characterized.

    METHODS: We used Luminex bead-based assays to measure serum levels of 77 immune and inflammatory markers in 1,728 older non-Hispanic Whites. Usual coffee intake was self-reported using a food frequency questionnaire. We used weighted multivariable logistic regression models to examine associations between coffee and dichotomized marker levels. We conducted statistical trend tests by modeling the median value of each coffee category and applied a 20% false discovery rate criterion to P-values.

    RESULTS: Ten of the 77 markers were nominally associated (P-value for trend<0.05) with coffee drinking. Five markers withstood correction for multiple comparisons and included aspects of the host response namely chemotaxis of monocytes/macrophages (IFNγ, CX3CL1/fractalkine, CCL4/MIP-1β), pro-inflammatory cytokines (sTNFRII) and regulators of cell growth (FGF-2). Heavy coffee drinkers had lower circulating levels of IFNγ (OR=0.35; 95% CI 0.16-0.75), CX3CL1/fractalkine (OR=0.25; 95% CI 0.10-0.64), CCL4/MIP-1β (OR=0.48; 95% CI 0.24-0.99), FGF-2 (OR=0.62; 95% CI 0.28-1.38), and sTNFRII (OR=0.34; 95% CI 0.15-0.79) than non-coffee drinkers.

    CONCLUSIONS: Lower circulating levels of inflammatory markers among coffee drinkers may partially mediate previously observed associations of coffee with cancer and other chronic diseases.

    IMPACT: Validation studies, ideally controlled feeding trials, are needed to confirm these associations.

    Be well!


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