Research Links Coffee to Heart Risks for Some
But Heart Disease Risk Still Affected by Many Other Factors
WebMD News Archive
The Research continued...
They also measured blood vessel wall abnormalities -- wall stiffness, the
inability to expand and contract and a sign of unhealthy blood vessels.
Compared with people who did not drink coffee, people who drank two or more
cups of coffee a day showed more abnormalities in blood vessel function. Blood
vessel stiffness is an indictor of heart disease risk. The association remained
strong even after taking into account other heart disease risk factors like
smoking, obesity, and age.
But nutrition researcher Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, says the lifestyle
differences between the coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers were so great
that it would be difficult for the researchers to take these into account.
Lichtenstein is a senior scientist and director of the Cardiovascular
Nutrition Laboratory at Boston's Tufts University. She is also a spokeswoman
for the American Heart Association.
In the study, people who drank two or more cups of coffee a day were almost
nine times more likely than non-coffee drinkers to smoke cigarettes. They were
also 2.5 times as likely to be obese. In general, people who drank no coffee
also tended to be younger than those who drank coffee.
Age, cigarette smoking and obesity are three risk factors for heart disease.
"It is more likely that heart disease risk is determined by a number of
dietary and lifestyle components together, rather than individual foods,"
she tells WebMD.
Moderation Is Key
Lichtenstein agrees that as a whole, the research on coffee and health
remains inconclusive. She adds that java junkies can probably relax if they
drink coffee in moderation and reserve the cream and sugar-laden specialty
coffees for special occasions.
While coffee itself has no calories, the "tall" version of, say, a
double-mocha latte with whipped cream can contain more calories, fat, and sugar
than a typical fast-food meal.
Vlachopoulos says it is increasingly clear that coffee consumption is an
important risk factor for heart disease when combined with smoking.
"The message to smokers would be to stop, and if they can't stop they
shouldn't drink coffee," he says.