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How Do Coffee and Caffeine Affect the Heart

In recent decades, there have been various studies with conflicting findings on the effect of coffee and caffeine on the heart. The results of different studies have indicated that coffee has a harmful effect on the arteries, that it can actually protect the heart, that it has no influence whatsoever on cardiovascular health, and other similar, varying implications. So which one are you supposed to believe? 

How Do Coffee and Caffeine Affect the Heart

Different Conclusions

Let’s have a look at the research findings in the last score.

In June 2005, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study that associated chronic coffee consumption with aortic stiffness and wave reflections. The stiffening of the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body, can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, so the implied effect on the heart is negative.

More than a decade later, in 2018, a contradictory finding surfaced when a new study on coffee’s effects on the heart was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. It indicated that drinking more than three cups of coffee per day can actually protect you against atherosclerosis, the building up of plaque inside the arteries, which then prevents normal blood flow.

Just a little over a year later, in 2019, a study that seemed to corroborate the findings in the last one was published in the British Medical Journal. This study, conducted by UK researchers from the Queen Mary University of London, found that even those who guzzled considerable amounts of coffee a day experienced no arterial stiffness.

Most Recent Findings

There was actually a more recent study on this matter published in February 2021. It appeared in the Journal of the American Heart Association. It had very encouraging results for coffee lovers, essentially suggesting that the more coffee you drank, the lower your risk of heart failure. Take note, however, that this doesn’t apply if you drink decaf.

The study mainly involves the analysis of data from three important and well-acknowledged heart disease trials: the Framingham Heart Study, the Cardiovascular Health Study, and the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. These three collectively consist of 10 years of follow-up on more than 21,000 adult participants who enjoyed up to three cups of coffee daily.

These are the data gleaned from the different studies. Take note, however, that the research conducted didn’t distinguish between different coffee preparation methods, sources of the beans, or strengths of coffee.

Coffee aroma
  • (Framingham and Cardiovascular Health) Heart failure risk is reduced by five to 12 percent for every daily cup of coffee consumed by coffee drinkers in comparison to those who didn’t drink coffee at all.

  • (Atherosclerosis Risk) There was no difference in heart failure risk for those who drank a cup of coffee a day, but there was a 30 percent reduced risk for those who drank two or more cups.

  • (Framingham) Drinking decaf considerably increased heart failure risk.

  • (Cardiovascular Health) Drinking decaf had no impact on heart failure risk.

A senior author in this study, Dr. David Kao, expressed in a news release his surprise at the association between heart failure risk reduction and caffeine. The general public has always considered coffee to be bad for the heart because of its caffeine content. People usually expect to experience palpitations and high blood pressure if they don’t watch their coffee intake. However, this study obviously negates these age-old assumptions about coffee drinking.

Dr. Kao, who is an assistant professor of cardiology and the medical director at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora’s Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine, did qualify their findings, stating that there isn’t enough clear evidence yet to strongly and certainly recommend increasing coffee intake for the purpose of decreasing the risk of heart disease, not in the same way that it can be done with quitting smoking, exercising, and losing weight.

Issued Cautions

According to the current federal dietary guidelines, three to five eight-ounce cups of black coffee daily can be part of a healthy diet. Meanwhile, those coffee-based beverages like the macchiatos and lattes favored by many, especially those with a sweet tooth, are typically high in sugar, fat, and calories, which have their own impact on heart health.

Also, when it comes to overall health, huge amounts of caffeine can still be dangerous. You have to keep in mind that it’s a stimulant and that consuming too much may cause jitteriness as well as sleep problems. The American Academy of Pediatrics definitely maintains that it should not be given to children.

Final Thoughts

Research on the effects of coffee on the heart is ongoing. Many more studies with further findings will be published. But, for the moment, the acknowledged association between plain coffee and the heart is favorable, so coffee lovers may continue to enjoy their daily cups with zero guilt.


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