By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
The mostly widely used drug in the world, coffee has long been viewed as a medicinal beverage. In the 19th century, for example, it was used to treat asthma because it helped people breathe more easily. Coffee these days, however, gets a lot of mixed press. Some studies say it’s bad, while a growing number of studies say it’s good for your health.
According to a 2015 study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, if you drink three to four cups daily, you have reason to rejoice: you may be lowering your risk of death from heart problems or strokes.
Researchers followed 90,000 Japanese men and women for 11 years, with a close survey of their coffee drinking habits and death. The researchers found that the more coffee people drank, the less risk they had of dying: “we showed an inverse association between coffee intake and total mortality in both men and women,” they said. Specifically, those who drank three to four cups a day had a lower risk of dying from heart diseases such as angina and heart attack; cerebral vascular diseases such as hemorrhaging and stroke; and respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia.
Why Is Coffee Good for You?
What’s in coffee that makes it good for you? The Japanese research team zeroed in on three ingredients found in coffee: chlorogenic acid, which adjusts blood sugar levels and blood pressure; caffeine, which helps maintain healthy blood vessels; and pyridinium, which fights dangerous blood clots.
Coffee is also high in antioxidants, which are beneficial substances that protect the cells from damage, disease, and aging – making coffee a nice addition to those foods that may make you live longer!
I was happy to see this study, since I’ve always felt that coffee is basically harmless for cardiovascular health when enjoyed in moderation.
If you’re a coffee fan, and you have no side effects from your cups of java (like the jitters), then there’s no need to change your habit. For those of you who don’t drink coffee, I wouldn’t start just because of the positive research. There are other ways to obtain the same health benefits, such as drinking green tea (which was also praised in this study), and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are also packed with antioxidants and many other healthful nutrients.
How Much Coffee Is Too Much?
More coffee is not necessarily better, since too much caffeine can trigger irregular or skipped heart beats. And in some people, it can increase heart rate and blood pressure. Coffee is dehydrating, too, and you might have to run to the restroom more than you planned. It doesn’t take too much coffee to trigger these events, either.
Four or more cups of coffee a day is actually associated with an increased risk of non-cardiovasucular related death in men and women under age 55, as I reported in Too Much Coffee Can Harm You. As the increased risk was not “statistically significant” for people aged 55 and older, the researchers said, “it may be appropriate to recommend that younger people, in particular, avoid heavy coffee consumption.”
My advice – whatever your age – is to limit yourself to no more than two cups a day, preferably in the morning, to avoid possible stimulating effects later in the day.
- Saito E, et al. Association of coffee intake with total and cause-specific mortality in a Japanese population: the Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015;101:1029-1037.
© 2015, 2016 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.