- Three new studies found drinking two to three cups of coffee per day was associated with a lower risk of heart disease and dangerous heart rhythms.
- The research also found drinking coffee could increase longevity.
- Heart health benefits were found in those both with and without preexisting cardiovascular disease.
Go ahead and pour yourself another cup of coffee—it may be good for your heart. Three new studies to be presented at the American College of Cardiology 71st Annual Scientific Session in April discovered that drinking coffee every day could benefit your heart health in a major way.
The new research is the largest to look at coffee’s potential role in heart disease and death. Researchers found drinking two to three cups of coffee per day was associated with a lower risk of heart disease and dangerous heart rhythms. Additionally, drinking coffee was found to increase longevity, according to the press release. Overall, the heart health benefits of coffee either had no impact or benefited those with and without cardiovascular disease.
Data was pulled from the UK BioBank, a large-scale database of health information from more than half a million people over at least a 10 year period. Scientists set out to look at people’s coffee consumption. The team then compared how much coffee people drank, ranging from up to a cup to more than six cups a day, and the relationship with heart rhythm problems, cardiovascular disease, and total and heart-related deaths.
It’s important to note that the studies did not adjust for dietary factors that may also play a role in heart health or if participants drank their coffee with additional creamers or sugars (which can each play a role in heart health). And, the study participants were predominantly caucasian, which does not reflect actual populations.
But, scientists did consider exercise, alcohol, smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
What did the studies show?
For the first study, researchers examined data from 382,535 participants without known heart disease. The average age of participants was 57 and the study featured an even amount of men and women. The research found two to three cups of coffee a day was associated with the greatest benefits, approximately 10% to 15% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, heart failure, a heart rhythm problem, or dying for any reason. Those who drank one cup of coffee a day had the lowest risk of stroke or heart-related death.
The second study included 34,279 people who already had some form of cardiovascular disease. It determined that those who drank two to three cups of coffee per day had a lower chance of dying compared to those who had no coffee. Additionally, researchers found that any amount of coffee was associated with a lower risk of heart rhythm problems. In fact, of the 24,111 people in the study who had an irregular heartbeat, drinking coffee lowered their risk of death.
In the third study, researchers determined if the kind of coffee mattered. Scientists compared data of those who drank instant versus ground coffee and caffeinated versus decaffeinated coffee to see the impact on the heart. Again, researchers found two to three cups of coffee was the sweet spot that was associated with a lower risk of arrhythmias, blockages in the heart’s arteries, stroke, or heart failure in both ground and instant coffee. Decaf coffee didn’t have any impact on irregular heartbeats but did reduce cardiovascular disease, with the exception of heart failure.
So, should you drink more coffee?
Previously, experts recommended avoiding coffee when you have heart concerns, but this new research suggests a couple of cups a day might not be so bad, according to the press release. But, it is important to consult your doctor before upping your caffeine intake.
“Because coffee can quicken heart rate, some people worry that drinking it could trigger or worsen certain heart issues. This is where general medical advice to stop drinking coffee may come from. But our data suggest that daily coffee intake shouldn’t be discouraged, but rather included as part of a healthy diet for people with and without heart disease,” Peter M. Kistler, M.D., professor and head of arrhythmia research at the Alfred Hospital and Baker Heart Institute in Melbourne, Austalia and the study’s senior author, said in the press release. “We found coffee drinking had either a neutral effect—meaning that it did no harm—or was associated with benefits to heart health.”
This groundbreaking research has found that in most cases you actually don’t need to cut down on coffee if you’re suffering from heart issues. “But our study shows that regular coffee intake is safe and could be part of a healthy diet for people with heart disease,” Dr. Kistler said in the press release.
What about the negative side effects of coffee?
But if you don’t already drink coffee, or you like to stick to just one cup a day, there’s no need to increase your intake, Dr. Kistler noted in the press release, especially if drinking it makes you anxious or uncomfortable.
“To me, the main take-home is coffee, in general, seems to be safe in moderation for individuals with and without cardiovascular disease. I would not use these results to recommend starting coffee for those that are currently not consuming it.,”Amit Khera, M.D., professor of medicine in the division of cardiology and director of preventive cardiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center told Prevention. “We do know from some recent randomized data that coffee can increase extra heartbeats and can have some other consequences, like reduction in sleep, so one has to be careful making a blanket recommendation, particularly from an observational study.”
Dr. Khera also noted that because this is an observational study, it’s hard to separate those who choose to drink coffee and the existing habits they have, compared to the effect of the coffee consumption itself.
In fact, it may not even be the caffeine itself that’s working to strengthen the heart. According to the press release, scientists hypothesized that the coffee beans themselves may be the reasoning. After all, coffee beans contain over 100 biologically active compounds that can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, boost metabolism, decrease the gut’s absorption of fat, and block receptors known to be involved with abnormal heart rhythms, Kistler said in the Press release.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease encompasses many heart-related problems including heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia, and heart valve problems and statistics show it impacts nearly half of American adults. Dr. Khera recommends following a heart-healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet for the best heart health benefits.
But, as long as your doctor agrees and you can stand the caffeine, consider adding another cup of joe to your daily routine.