Korean researchers have recently shown that drinking coffee is linked to lower arterial calcification (calcium deposits in vascular walls). Arterial calcification predicts increased cardiovascular risk, independent of the usual cardiovascular risk factors, and so it’s very important to prevent it.
The link between coffee consumption and prevalence of coronary artery calcium (CAC) was examined in 25 138 men and women (mean age 41.3 years). The subjects had no clinically evident cardiovascular disease, and CAC scores were determined by computed tomography. CT scans showed that 13.4% of subjects had detectable coronary artery calcium. The mean coffee consumption was 1.8 cups per day.
The study showed that coffee drinkers had lower coronary artery calcium scores, as compared to noncoffee drinkers. Those that drank 3 or 4 cups per day had the lowest coronary artery calcium scores. This link was similar inmen and women and for subgroups defined by age, weight, smoking status, alcohol consumption, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes.
Moderate coffee consumption can help prevent clogged arteries, and type 2 diabetes is a strong risk factor for atherosclerosis. The researchers suggest that chronic coffee consumption could lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, and might improve insulin sensitivity. The authors of this study concluded: “Our study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that coffee consumption might be inversely associated with cardiovascular disease risk.” The study was conducted by Yuni Choi, Yoosoo Chang, and colleagues, at the Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Kangbuk Samsung Hospital, Seoul, and published in the journal Heart.
Another recent study also showed that those who drink 3 or 4 cups of coffee per day have the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease. The links between moderate coffee drinking and better heart health can also be due to the antioxidants that coffee contains. You won’t obtain the same healthy effects from a caffeine pill or drinking dangerous energy drinks.
If you don’t drink coffee, but want to, start with one cup per day and slowly add more cups over weeks and months. If you have any medical condition, consult your doctor before starting coffee consumption.
What about the belief that coffee can raise blood pressure? Although caffeine can cause a temporary rise in blood pressure in hypertensive subjects, long-term coffee drinking (2 weeks) didn’t show a rise. Long-term coffee use doesn’t show a link to high blood pressure, or a higher risk of cardiovasculardisease in hypertensive subjects. If you are worried, measure your blood pressure daily, and for the long term.
You should also have regular coronary artery calcium scores by CT scan to detect potential problems. If you do have an elevated CAC score, coffee might help you prevent more arterial clogging.
Coffee has many health benefits, so enjoy that second or third cup!