Coffee, often reviled for its effects when consumed in abundance, is not bad for the heart even if consumed in abundance, new research has shown.
The study was led by Professor Steffen Petersen from the William Harvey Research Institute of the Queen Mary University of London.
Funded partly by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), it was presented at the British Cardiovascular Society (BCS) Conference in Manchester on Monday, June 3.
Conducted on more than 8,000 people in the UK, it showed drinking coffee is not associated with stiffer arteries.
The risks of arterial stiffness
Stiffer arteries have traditionally been linked to cardiac problems, and are often blamed for increasing the chances of heart attacks.
After all, the heart has to work overtime to pump blood — and the oxygen and nutrients in it — through stiffer arteries to various parts of the body.
Therefore, anything that causes arterial stiffness is a subject to study. And coffee consumption has often been tied to stiffer arteries.
The research divided its 8,412 participants into three broad groups. Each of them was subjected to MRI heart scans and infrared pulse wave tests as part of the study.
The first group included those who drank less than a cup of coffee every day. The second group involved those who drank one to three cups of coffee a day.
The last group included those who drank more than three cups of coffee a day. The upper limit was 25 cups daily of the beverage.
The research concluded that “no increased stiffening of arteries was associated with those who drank up to this high limit [25 cups of coffee a day] when compared with those who drank less than one cup a day.”
Coffee not bad for the heart?
According to an article published by the Queen Mary University of London, the study’s data analysis lead Dr Kenneth Fung said their efforts showed coffee was not as bad for the heart as previously thought.
He was quoted as saying: “Despite the huge popularity of coffee worldwide, different reports could put people off from enjoying it.”
He explained: “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.”
Fung also said: “Although our study included individuals who drink up to 25 cups a day, the average intake amongst the highest coffee consumption group was five cups a day. We would like to study these people more closely in our future work so that we can help to advise safe limits.”
Joel Winston, a spokesperson from the university and for the research team, later told Times of Food via email that the study also took into account the ethnicity of the participants.
“The majority (>90%) of the individuals in our study were Caucasians but we did adjust for ethnicity in our regression models,” he said.