Sian Claire Owen, Medical Journalist for Cardio Debate

coffe and cardiovascular diseasesTwo major studies recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine have highlighted the possible health benefits of drinking two or three cups of coffee every day. Results of these observational studies, conducted in the US and Europe, suggest a link between coffee consumption and reduced total mortality, including from cardiac disease as well as other illnesses. [1, 2]

The first study – a prospective population-based cohort that included 185,855 African American, Native American, Native Hawaiian, Japanese American, Latino and White participants aged 45 – 75 years – examined whether coffee consumption had an impact on risk of ‘total and cause-specific death’. [1]

The second study – again, a multinational cohort study including 521,330 people across 10 European countries – looked at the effect of coffee consumption on serum biomarkers of liver function, inflammation and metabolic health. [2]

In both studies there was a reduction in mortality – including mortality caused by heart disease – associated with drinking coffee. In fact, the results of these studies suggest that people who drink two or three cups of coffee a day had an 18% reduced risk of death.

However, both studies had limitations, for example in the second study coffee-drinking habits were only assessed once. Furthermore, the individual lifestyles of the participants were not taken into account. In other words, is it the coffee, or the coffee drinkers?

Previous research from 2012 indicated that moderate coffee consumption was inversely associated with increased risk of heart disease, [3] with a slight increase in risk in those who drank excessive amounts (over 10 cups per day). However, the results of this study were not statistically significant and should be viewed with caution.

Therefore, these recent studies do suggest health benefits of coffee, but again due to the study limitations it is difficult to state the definitive health benefits of drinking coffee.

Marc Gunter from the International Agency for Research on Cancer co-authored one of the studies agrees. He tells The Guardian that: “I wouldn’t recommend people start rushing out to drink lots of coffee, but I think what it does suggest is drinking coffee certainly does you no harm. It can be part of a healthy diet.” [4]