14 Apr 11 The good news on coffee and heart health
Numerous studies in recent years have reported that drinking coffee may be good for the cardiovascular system and might even help prevent strokes. Just last month, Swedish researchers announced results of a large study showing that coffee seemed to reduce the risk of stroke in women by up to 25%.
Not long ago, researchers thought quite the opposite about coffee and the heart, says Dr Thomas Hemmen, director of the UC San Diego Stroke Center: “Coffee is fun and it tastes good, so people assumed for many years that it would be bad for you.”
Studies conducted in the 1970s and 1980s offered little in the way of confirmation or refutation. Several suggested an increased risk of heart attack among coffee drinkers. Others showed a lowered risk of heart attack and stroke. Still others found no connection at all.
Many of these early studies were criticised for being too small or too brief. In response, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health decided to look at coffee consumption, heart disease and stroke risk among more than 45 000 healthy men enrolled in the school’s ongoing Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Their analysis, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1990, found that coffee drinking had no effect on the men’s risk of heart attack or stroke.
But in the last few years, a spate of studies has revisited the question, and many of them have found — unexpectedly — that coffee drinking is linked to a decreased stroke risk.
A 2008 study of more than 26 000 male smokers in Finland found that the men who drank eight or more cups of coffee a day had a 23% lower risk of stroke than the men who drank little or no coffee. And a few other reports suggest the effect applies to healthy nonsmokers too.
Researchers at UCLA and USC examined data on coffee consumption and stroke prevalence among more than 9 000 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. At a 2009 conference, they reported that the likelihood of stroke was highest among people who didn’t drink coffee and lowest among those who drank the most coffee: 5% of people who drank one or two cups a day suffered strokes, whereas 2.9% of people who drank six or more cups suffered strokes. The study will be published in a few months……
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