Your morning cup of coffee doesn't harm heart - new study

Go ahead and have that second cup of coffee -- or third, or fourth. A study published on Monday shows heavy, long-term coffee drinking does not raise the risk of heart disease for most people.

The study, which followed 128,000 men and women for as long as 20 years, showed that drinking filtered coffee -- not espresso or French-style brews -- did not raise the risk of heart disease.

Heavy coffee drinkers did tend to smoke and drink alcohol more often and those two factors clearly do raise heart risk, the researchers report in the journal Circulation.

"We believe this study clearly shows there is no association between filtered coffee consumption and coronary heart disease," said Esther Lopez-Garcia, an instructor in the School of Medicine at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in Spain, who worked on the study.

"This lack of effect is good news, because coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world."

Researchers also found no link between heart disease and how much caffeine, tea or decaffeinated coffee people drank, informs Reuters.

A couple of caveats go with the overall findings, the researchers said.

"We can't exclude the association between coffee consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease in small groups of people," said Rob van Dam, a research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, and a co-author of the report.

For instance, a recent study suggested that one form of a gene responsible for metabolism of caffeine could make coffee harmful to people who carry the gene, van Dam said, "although that finding requires confirmation."

And the new findings don't apply to heavy consumption of unfiltered coffee, such as the French press kind, he said. "Studies have consistently shown that drinking a lot of French press coffee increases low-density lipoprotein, the bad cholesterol," van Dam said.

"Just because there is no association between coffee and cardiovascular disease, that doesn't give free rein to order whatever you want at a coffee shop," she said. "The saturated fat in cream or whole milk and the sugar that is put in warrant consideration. Having black coffee or no-fat milk is one thing. It's another thing to drink coffee with lots of calories in it."

The researchers behind the new study had to adjust their risk estimates for other habits that often go with coffee consumption. For example, heavy coffee drinkers were more likely to drink alcohol and use aspirin, and less likely to exercise and use vitamin supplements. And there was a strong association between coffee consumption and smoking; more than half the women and 30 percent of the men drinking six or more cups a day also smoked cigarettes.

Van Dam had some advice for coffee drinkers. "If you perceive unpleasant symptoms, such as difficulty falling to sleep when consuming caffeinated coffee, that means you drink too much," he said.

And women who are pregnant or nursing should limit themselves to three or fewer 8-ounce cups a day because "the child is very sensitive to caffeine," he said.

Also, "persons with specific diseases such as heart conditions can consult their physicians about prudent coffee consumption," van Dam said, informs Forbes.


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