Whether your preference is a latte, cream and sugar, or straight espresso, the smell of fresh coffee grounds in the morning can be enough to get you out of bed and moving. But what if the benefits went beyond the taste or that pleasant jolt of caffeine? Research has found reason to link this morning beverage with specific health benefits, including a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease—and for those who indulge in more than one cup, the news may be even better. Read on to find out more about how your morning cup of Joe could be safeguarding your wellbeing.
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Your monthly Starbucks Rewards membership just got a whole lot sweeter. According to findings recently presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 71st Annual Scientific Session, drinking coffee, specifically having two to three cups each day, lowers your risk of heart disease and dangerous heart rhythms. While coffee sometimes gets a bad rap—with many believing the adage that it stunts your growth—data actually suggest that daily consumption can help you live longer.
“Because coffee can quicken heart rate, some people worry that drinking it could trigger or worsen certain heart issues. This is where general medical advice to stop drinking coffee may come from. But our data suggest that daily coffee intake shouldn’t be discouraged, but rather included as a part of a healthy diet for people with and without heart disease,” the study’s senior author Peter M. Kistler, MD, professor and head of arrhythmia research at the Alfred Hospital and Baker Heart Institute in Melbourne, Australia, said in a press release.
“We found coffee drinking had either a neutral effect—meaning that it did no harm—or was associated with benefits to heart health,” Kistler added, also pointing out that these benefits were seen in patients both with and without cardiovascular disease.
Data was collected from over 500,000 people in the UK BioBank prospective database. Participants filled out a questionnaire when entering the registry, and Kistler’s team grouped patients by how many cups of coffee they were consuming each day, ranging between zero and more than five. After controlling for other factors that could contribute to heart health, namely alcohol, exercise, diabetes, and high blood pressure, it was concluded that in most cases, drinking coffee had significant reductions in cardiovascular risk.
When looking at a group of 382,535 individuals without known heart disease in one study, the team found that two to three cups of coffee daily had the greatest benefits, lowering risk of developing coronary heart disease, heart failure, a heart rhythm problem, or death for any reason by 10 to 15 percent. A second study evaluated 34,729 patients with some form of cardiovascular disease at baseline, two to three cups of coffee were yet again found to be associated with lower risk of dying.
There was no association between drinking coffee and risk of heart rhythm problems, namely atrial fibrillation (AFib)—an irregular, rapid heart rhythm—or atrial flutter. Those who had an arrhythmia at baseline and also drank coffee had a lower risk of death, and coffee drinkers with AFib were almost 20 percent less likely to die than those who didn’t drink coffee. This finding is of particular importance, as the impact of caffeine on these conditions is often an area of concern for healthcare providers.
“Clinicians generally have some apprehension about people with known cardiovascular disease or arrhythmias continuing to drink coffee, so they often err on the side of caution and advise them to stop drinking it altogether due to fears that it may trigger dangerous heart rhythms,” Kistler said. “But our study shows that regular coffee intake is safe and could be part of a healthy diet for people with heart disease.”
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Caffeine has its pros and cons for several coffee drinkers, but coffee beans may be additionally beneficial for your health, containing over 100 biologically active compounds. According to Kistler, this is helpful to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and to keep your metabolism going.
Kistler and his team analyzed instant versus ground coffee, as well as caffeinated versus decaf, as a variable in a third study of cardiovascular risk. Regardless of the form—be it instant or ground—two to three cups of coffee daily had positive effects. Not only did these study participants have lower rates of death, but also lower risk of arrhythmias, artery blockage in the heart, stroke, and heart failure. Caffeine, however, did play a role in and may be the preferred selection. Although decaf coffee reduced rates of cardiovascular disease, excluding heart failure, it did not produce the same favorable effects against incident arrhythmia.
If you’re feeling ready to up your coffee quota tomorrow morning, Kistler cautions doing so if it makes you uncomfortable or triggers anxiety.
“There is a whole range of mechanisms through which coffee may reduce mortality and have these favorable effects on cardiovascular disease,” Kistler said. “Coffee drinkers should feel reassured that they can continue to enjoy coffee even if they have heart disease. Coffee is the most common cognitive enhancer—it wakes you up, makes you mentally sharper and it’s a very important component of many people’s daily lives.”
Researchers also noted limitations of the analyses, which could have impacted the accuracy of results. Other dietary factors that could put participants at risk for cardiovascular disease were not accounted for as part of research, and investigators were relying on self-reported data collected at the beginning of the study. There was also no requirement to list how you take your coffee, whether that be with creamers, milks, or other sugary additives, and most of the study participants were white, limiting the generalizability of findings.
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