Loving Coffee from the Bottom of Your Heart

Coffee consumption associated with several health benefits

Do you enjoy waking up to the smell of coffee in the morning? According to recent research, that cup of joe could be good for your heart.

Multiple studies have found coffee can be part of a healthy diet and can even provide benefits for heart health and may help ward off diabetes risks.

Researchers recently reviewed several studies on coffee drinking. They found that a few cups of filtered coffee every day did not have long-term effects on blood pressure. It may even reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.

"Enjoy one or two cups of coffee every day."

James H. O'Keefe, MD, of the University of Missouri - Kansas City, and colleagues conducted this report to weigh the health risks and benefits of drinking coffee.

These researchers looked at previous clinical trials and research on coffee's effect on blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, stroke, general cardiovascular health and death.

According to the report, coffee intake does raise blood pressure briefly, because caffeine is a stimulant. However, regular coffee drinkers develop a tolerance to the short blood pressure spikes, and coffee does not appear to result in chronically high blood pressure, or hypertension.

This report also claimed coffee can be a healthy beverage for individuals living with or at risk of developing diabetes. Drinking coffee can improve insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels and hunger, and increased insulin sensitivity can prevent diabetes.

However, the effects of coffee on blood sugar and insulin generally accompany heavy coffee consumption, defined as greater than six cups per day.

The researchers also compiled the results of 21 independent studies from January 1966 to January 2008 dealing with coffee's effect on cardiovascular health. They concluded that individuals at risk for coronary heart disease may benefit from moderate coffee consumption — about one or two cups a day. 

For individuals at risk of stroke, regular coffee consumption may be helpful for reducing that risk. The report mentioned seven studies with a total of 442,098 participants that linked drinking three to six cups of coffee per day with a significant reduction in stroke rates.

Although the cause for coffee's link to stroke risk reduction is unknown, the report speculated that it may be linked to coffee's anti-inflammatory properties and effect on insulin.

The report referenced several other studies of varying size that analyzed coffee consumption and risk of death. The studies found that coffee consumption — even decaffeinated coffee — was linked to a reduction in cardiovascular-related and all-cause death.

However, the report's authors also noted that coffee can have some negative health consequences. Coffee has been shown to agitate anxiety and insomnia due to its stimulant properties.

Additionally, coffee has been associated with decreases in bone density. The authors suggested adding two tablespoons of milk to a cup of coffee to make up for any calcium lost.

Coffee can also increase urine output and have a dehydrating effect on the body. Coffee drinkers should ensure they are drinking enough water.

For people with high cholesterol, the preparation of the coffee matters. Drinking boiled coffee may result in slight increases in cholesterol, but filtered coffee doesn't have the same effects. The researchers suggested that tea actually has a favorable impact on cholesterol.

"It's important to understand that although coffee and tea appear to have positive effects on our heart, energy drinks and sodas, which are loaded with sweeteners and other chemicals, do not," warned Sarah Samaan, MD, FACC, cardiologist at Baylor Heart Hospital.

"Coffee isn't for everyone. Some people will develop palpitations, indigestion, or irritability with even a few sips," she said.

This study was published in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
July 19, 2013