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Coffee in Moderation May Lower Heart Failure Risk

Two Cups a Day Linked With Best Effect, Researchers Say, but Excessive Drinking Linked With Ill Effects
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 26, 2012 -- Drinking coffee in moderation may reduce your risk of heart failure as you age, according to a new analysis.

What's moderate? About two cups a day, if you're drinking the typical U.S. coffee serving, says researcher Murray Mittleman, MD, DrPH, director of cardiovascular epidemiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

"Beyond that, any potential benefits seem to decrease and eventually go away," Mittleman tells WebMD, while making clear that this study found a link, but not cause and effect.

About 5.8 million Americans have heart failure, according to the CDC. It occurs when the heart can't pump enough blood to the body.

"We are seeing great increases in the incidence of heart failure," says Mittleman, who is also associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard University.

Although heart failure can be controlled with medications and lifestyle changes, it greatly affects quality of life, Mittleman tells WebMD.

Besides possibly reducing heart failure risk, coffee has been found in other studies to protect against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and liver cancer, among other health benefits.

The new analysis is published in the journal Circulation Heart Failure.

Coffee and Heart Failure Risk: Study Details

Mittleman's team analyzed the results of five previously published studies that looked at coffee intake and heart failure.

Four studies were done in Sweden. The fifth was done in Finland. Mittleman's research group was involved in three of the studies.

The people in the studies may have drank both caffeinated and decaf, Mittleman says. However, in Sweden and Finland, most coffee is caffeinated, he says.

In all, the researchers found more than 6,500 heart failure reports in more than 140,000 people. The follow-up time varied from study to study. It ranged from about eight to 35 years.

The researchers looked at the coffee-drinking habits of all the men and women.

Those who drank three or four servings a day had the best protection from heart failure, Mittleman says. Drinking that amount, compared to not drinking, reduced heart failure risk by 11%.

However, Mittleman says, those four servings are European style and must be translated to typically larger U.S. serving sizes.

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