For a while now, coffee has long been associated with specific health benefits, often being linked to as a perfect pre-workout or post-workout drink. However, there have long been conflicts over coffee’s impact on overall individual health, especially cardiovascularly.
While some studies warn that drinking coffee can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular events, others suggest that it can help maintain heart health and blood vessel function.
For instance, some researchers claim to have found a link between drinking coffee regularly and aortic stiffness, a condition whereby the aorta becomes less flexible. Due to the inflexibility of the blood vessel, aortic stiffness can result in a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
On the other hand, other research studies have found that drinking coffee regularly (more than 3 cups of coffee a day) helps protect against atherosclerosis, a condition defined by the buildup of plaque inside arteries. This build-up of plaque leads to restricted blood flow, often resulting in an increased resting heart rate as the body has to work harder to pump blood around itself.
A recent study, however, carried out by the American Heart Foundation seems to have tipped the evidence in favour of reduced cardiovascular disease risk.
The study used machine learning through the American Heart Association’s Precision Medicine Platform to analyse data from three large, well-known heart disease studies. The Framingham Heart Study, Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, and the Cardiovascular Health Study. Their analysis led to the conclusion that drinking one or more cups of caffeinated coffee was associated with decreased heart failure risk, whilst decaffeinated coffee was found to not have the same positive impact, perhaps even having a negative one.
The analysis revealed:
In all three studies, people who reported drinking one or more cups of caffeinated coffee had an associated decreased long-term risk of heart failure and other associated cardiovascular diseases.
In the Framingham Heart and the Cardiovascular Health studies, the risk of cardiovascular disease over the course of decades decreased by 5-to-12% per cup per day of coffee, compared with no coffee consumption at all, suggesting a greater daily consumption of coffee can be linked to a reduced risk of heart failure.
In the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, the risk of heart failure was found to be the same between 0 to 1 cup per day of coffee. However, for individuals who drank 2 or more caffeinated coffees per day, the risk of heart failure was found to be 30% less.
Drinking decaffeinated coffee appeared to have an opposite effect on heart failure risk - significantly increasing the risk of heart failure in the Framingham Heart Study. In the Cardiovascular Health Study, however, no significant link was found.
Summary - Keep Filling That Cup?
For many, the results found by this research study will be surprising. We are often told that excess coffee consumption, especially due to its caffeine content, is bad and detrimental to our health. Oftentimes, this is linked to high blood pressure, heightened heart rate, and potential artery problems. However, this study identifies a positive correlation between increased coffee/caffeine consumption and decreasing heart failure risk.
It should be noted that this study looked at black coffee consumption. Other popular coffee variations, such as mochas, lattes and iced coffee will unlikely have the same health benefits. In fact, due to their higher sugar, milk and cream content, they are likely to have a negative impact on your cardiovascular health, despite still containing caffeine.
Equally, it should be noted that caffeine, in high enough amounts, can have negative health implications. For instance, excess caffeine consumption can be strongly linked to sleep deprivation, heart palpitations and withdrawal symptoms in the form of headaches and migraines.
In summary, this most recent research study, conducted by the American Heart Foundation, adds further evidence to the positive cardiovascular nature of coffee consumption. However, further research will be needed to prove a definitive link, as there is still not enough clear evidence to recommend increasing coffee consumption to decrease risk of heart disease with the same strength and certainty as stopping smoking, losing weight or exercising.