How That Cup of Joe Might Perk up Your Heart

Atherosclerosis risk may be reduced with moderate coffee consumption

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) In the past, some have raised concerns that coffee could be bad for the heart. Growing evidence, however, suggests that drinking coffee regularly may boost heart health.

A new study found that the prevalence of coronary artery calcium was lower among moderate coffee drinkers. This coronary calcium has been tied to the development of clogged arteries (called atherosclerosis). Clogged arteries may lead to heart attack or stroke.

About 6 out of 10 Americans drink coffee every day, according to the latest research from the National Coffee Association. These habitual coffee drinkers may be doing their hearts a favor. Several studies have linked coffee intake to a decreased risk of heart problems.

Eliseo Guallar, MD, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted this study. This research was based in Kangbuk Samsung Hospital in Seoul, South Korea.

“Our study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that coffee consumption might be inversely associated with [heart disease] risk,” Dr. Guallar and colleagues wrote. “Further research is warranted to confirm our findings and establish the biological basis of coffee’s potential preventive effects on coronary artery disease.”

Dr. Guallar and team studied data on more than 25,000 men and women in South Korea who had no signs of heart disease. They were 41 years old on average.

These patients filled out a survey on their diets. They also underwent diagnostic imaging that revealed levels of coronary artery calcium (CAC).

CAC scoring has become a common heart disease screening test in South Korea. Dr. Guallar and colleagues looked at CAC scores in relation to coffee intake. They calculated CAC score ratios by comparing calcium levels in coffee drinkers vs. non-coffee drinkers.

For people who drank less than 1 cup of coffee per day, the calcium ratio was 0.77. The ratio dipped to 0.66 for patients who had 1 to 3 cups each day. The ratio was lowest (at 0.59) for those who consumed 3 to 5 cups a day. People who had 5 or more cups of coffee a day had a higher calcium ratio of 0.81.

Based on these results, the lowest prevalence of clogged arteries was among those who had 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day.

Dr. Guallar and team said coffee may improve insulin sensitivity and beta cell function. These factors may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes can raise the risk for atherosclerosis.

Insulin is produced exclusively by beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin helps cells use blood sugar. With type 2 diabetes, the body is not using insulin efficiently or the pancreas is losing its ability to produce insulin.

This study was published online March 2 in the journal Heart. Dr. Guallar and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 27, 2015
Last Updated:
March 4, 2015