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Coffee and caffeine linked to lower risk of heart failure

Three large studies published by the American Heart Association have produced evidence that drinking coffee on a daily basis reduces the risk of heart failure. In the United States, the top causes of death from heart disease are heart failure, stroke, and coronary artery disease.

“While smoking, age and high blood pressure are among the most well-known heart disease risk factors, unidentified risk factors for heart disease remain,” explained study senior author Dr. David P. Kao.

“The risks and benefits of drinking coffee have been topics of ongoing scientific interest due to the popularity and frequency of consumption worldwide,” said Dr. Linda Van Horn. “Studies reporting associations with outcomes remain relatively limited due to inconsistencies in diet assessment and analytical methodologies, as well as inherent problems with self-reported dietary intake.”

To analyze the health outcomes of drinking caffeinated coffee, the researchers categorized consumption as 0 cups per day, 1 cup per day, 2 cups per day and 3 cups per day. They used machine learning to analyze data from the Framingham Heart Study, and then compared those findings to data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study and the Cardiovascular Health Study for confirmation.

The studies collectively involved more than 21,000 participants who were followed for at least 10 years. The analysis revealed that drinking one or more cups of caffeinated coffee was associated with a decreased long-term heart failure risk.

In the Framingham Heart and the Cardiovascular Health studies, the risk of heart failure decreased by up to 12 percent per cup per day of coffee, over the course of decades.

While the risk of heart failure was not reduced with just one cup of coffee in the third study, people who drank at least two cups of coffee per day had a 30 percent lower risk of heart failure.

Drinking decaffeinated coffee was found to have no association with heart failure risk in one of the investigations, yet was found to increase this risk in another dataset. Upon further investigation, the researchers found that caffeine consumption from any source was linked with decreased heart failure risk. They determined that caffeine was at least partially responsible for the apparent benefit from drinking more coffee.

“The association between caffeine and heart failure risk reduction was surprising. Coffee and caffeine are often considered by the general population to be ‘bad’ for the heart because people associate them with palpitations, high blood pressure, etc. The consistent relationship between increasing caffeine consumption and decreasing heart failure risk turns that assumption on its head,” said Dr. Kao. 

“However, there is not yet 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.”

The American Heart Association warns that popular coffee-based drinks such as lattes are often high in calories, added sugar and fat. Furthermore, despite its benefits, caffeine can be dangerous when consumed in excess. 

“While unable to prove causality, it is intriguing that these three studies suggest that drinking coffee is associated with a decreased risk of heart failure and that coffee can be part of a healthy dietary pattern if consumed plain, without added sugar and high fat dairy products such as cream,” said Dr. Penny M. Kris-Etherton.

“The bottom line: enjoy coffee in moderation as part of an overall heart-healthy dietary pattern that meets recommendations for fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat/non-fat dairy products, and that also is low in sodium, saturated fat and added sugars. Also, it is important to be mindful that caffeine is a stimulant and consuming too much may be problematic – causing jitteriness and sleep problems.”

The study is published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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