We all have our vices, but some, like coffee, is a shared experience by millions of others addicted to the dark nectar. So much so that Americans average about 4.2 kg of coffee consumed per person annually and we hit the ranks at a tepid 25th. Conversely, our Scandinavian friends in Finland top the list at a whopping 12 kg consumed per person annually! And with most things that are popular with the masses, conjecture and myth—usually associated with health concerns—rear-up to pollute the waters of knowledge, bittering the enjoyment for many.
“Despite the huge popularity of coffee worldwide, different reports could put people off from enjoying it,” noted Kenneth Fung, PhD, who led the data analysis for the research at Queen Mary University of London. “Whilst we can’t prove a causal link in this study, our research indicates coffee isn’t as bad for the arteries as previous studies would suggest.”
Now, investigators at Queen Mary University of London wanted to set the record straight by providing evidence that the popular drink isn’t as bad for our arteries as some previous studies would suggest. Findings from the new study were presented yesterday at the British Cardiovascular Society (BCS) Conference in Manchester, U.K. The scientists found that drinking coffee, including people who drink up to 25 cups a day, is not associated with having stiffer arteries.
“Although our study included individuals who drink up to 25 cups a day, the average intake amongst the highest coffee consumption group was 5 cups a day,” Fung stated. “We would like to study these people more closely in our future work so that we can help to advise safe limits.”
Arteries carry blood containing oxygen and nutrients from your heart to the rest of your body. If they become stiff, it can increase the workload on the heart and increase a person’s chance of having a heart attack or stroke. This new study of over 8,000 people in the U.K. debunks earlier work that claimed drinking coffee increases arterial stiffness. Previous suggestions that drinking coffee leads to stiffer arteries are inconsistent and could be limited by lower participant numbers, according to the team behind this new research.
In the current analysis, coffee consumption was categorized into three groups for the study. Those who drink less than one cup a day, those who drink between one and three cups a day and those who drink more than three. People who consumed more than 25 cups of coffee a day were excluded, but no increased stiffening of arteries was associated with those who drank up to this high limit when compared with those who drank less than one cup a day.
The associations between drinking coffee and artery stiffness measures were corrected for contributing factors like age, gender, ethnicity, smoking status, height, weight, how much alcohol someone drank, what they ate, and high blood pressure.
“Understanding the impact that coffee has on our heart and circulatory system is something that researchers and the media have had brewing for some time,” remarked Metin Avkiran, PhD, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, who partially funded the study.
Of the 8,412 participants who underwent MRI heart scans and infrared pulse wave tests, the research showed that moderate and heavy coffee drinkers were most likely to be male, smoke, and consume alcohol regularly.
“There are several conflicting studies saying different things about coffee, and it can be difficult to filter what we should believe and what we shouldn’t,” Avkiran concluded. “This research will hopefully put some of the media reports in perspective, as it rules out one of the potentially detrimental effects of coffee on our arteries.”