Conference Coverage

Coffee drinking may cut heart disease risk, prolong survival



A trio of analyses based on the prospective UK Biobank cohort suggest that regular coffee drinking, especially a daily intake of two to three cups, is not only safe for the heart but may be cardioprotective.

People without cardiovascular disease with that level of coffee intake, compared with those who weren’t coffee drinkers, showed significantly reduced risks of death and a range of CVD endpoints, the reductions ranging from 8% to 15% over about 10 years.

Coffee cup with ECG and heart drawn in foam S_Bachstroem/Getty Images

In a separate analysis, participants with CVD at baseline also showed significantly improved survival with coffee intake of two to three cups daily, and no increased risk of arrhythmias.

In a third cut of the UK Biobank data, the clinical benefits of the same level of coffee drinking were observed whether the coffee consumed was the “instant” kind for reconstitution with water or brewed from ground whole beans.

Some clinicians advise their patients that coffee drinking may trigger or worsen some types of heart disease, observed Peter M. Kistler, MD, the Alfred Hospital and Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne. But the current analyses suggest that “daily coffee intake should not be discouraged, but rather considered part of a healthy diet.”

Dr. Kistler and colleagues are slated to present the three UK Biobank cohort analyses separately at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology. He presented some of the data and commented on them at a press conference held in advance of the meeting.

UK Biobank study participants, who were on average in their late 50s, reported their level of daily coffee intake and preferred type of coffee on questionnaires. The researchers observed generally U-shaped relationships between daily number of cups of coffee and incident CVD, heart failure, coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, atrial fibrillation, any arrhythmia, and death over 10 years.

“This is music to I think many of our patients’ ears, as well as many in the field of cardiology, as those of us that wake up early and stay up late in the hospital consume a fair amount of coffee,” observed Katie Berlacher, MD, associate chief of cardiology education at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The analyses were based on a large cohort and saw a consistent pattern for several cardiovascular outcomes, observed Dr. Berlacher, incoming ACC scientific session vice chair.

The findings could have a “profound impact in daily clinical care, as many of us caution patients who have or are at risk for having CV[D] against coffee consumption,” she told this news organization by email.

“These studies suggest that we do not have objective evidence to caution nor ask patients to stop drinking coffee, including patients who have arrhythmias.”

But importantly, “these studies are not causal,” she added. “So we cannot go so far as to recommend coffee consumption, though one could posit that randomized prospective studies should be done to elucidate causation.”

Coffee, Dr. Kistler observed, “is the most common cognitive enhancer. It wakes you up, makes you mentally sharper, and it’s a very important component of many people’s daily lives. The take-home message is that clinicians should NOT advise patients to stop drinking coffee up to three cups per day.”

Also, “in non–coffee drinkers, we do not have the data to suggest they should start drinking coffee,” he said. Moreover, people shouldn’t necessarily increase their coffee intake, particularly if it makes them feel anxious or uncomfortable.


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