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Coffee, Caffeine and Heart Disease - A Mixed Bag of Scientific Evidence
Tuesday, March 5, 2013

 

 

Coffe and caffeine are consumed widely in the U.S.



Coffee is consumed by 110 million Americans, or nearly 1 in 3 Americans! The effect of caffeine on blood pressure and heart function have been investigated extensively, with little consensus among the results of multiple large cohort studies. While some have found that caffeine raises sympathetic activity (the fight part of the 'fight or flight response') and blood pressure in many coffee drinkers, these effects seem to disappear in those who have been drinking coffee regularly for long periods of time.

 

But how does coffee affect the risk of developiong heart disease?

 

Previously, there has been some evidence that caffeine may raise the levels of LDL, otherwise known as the "bad cholesterol", and thereby raise the incidence of coronary artery disease. Some studies have not been able to confirm this finding, while others argue that only heavy drinking (more than 5 cups per day) is associated with any risk of heart disease. In Finland, coffee consumption is one of the highest per capita in the world. Interestingly, so are the rates of heart disease - one of the highest in the world! One study looked at a possible relation between the two.

 

Over 20,000 Finnish men and women participated in a cross-sectional risk factor survey in 1972, 1977, or 1982. The study assessed major risk factors for heart disease, caffeine consumption, as well as other important medical history. Patients were then followed for a period of 10 years.

 

The results differed between men and women. In men, the highest incidence of heart disease was found in those who did not drink coffee at all. There was a slightly increased risk of heart attacks in men consuming caffeine. However, the same men also had a higher incidence of smoking as well as higher cholesterol levels. This meant that men who drink coffee were likely to light up a cigarette as well. In women on the other hand, all-cause mortality actually decreased with increased coffee drinking!

 

While coffee may or may not change the risk of heart disease or high blood pressure, the studies are showing mixed results. It is likely that other factors are contributing, and the topic need further investigation.

So, my patients ask me 'what does this mean for me, Dr. Karamanoukian?' The answer to this question in 2009 is that drinking coffee in moderation may be the right thing to do.

So, head over to Starbucks or your favorite coffee bar and have them make you a fresh cup of coffee of your liking. Avoid smoking a cigarette with your coffee and don't have more than 4 or 5 cups of coffee a day!

 

 

 
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