A Caffeinated Heart, a Healthy Heart?

By Rajlakshmi Sohini Mukhopadhyay

Our worlds are busy and, more often than not, we turn to caffeine as a way of keeping us going through our hectic day. The buzz of a morning coffee, or lack of it, can often feel like it can make or break a day. Caffeine, however, has previously been linked to heart problems along with a higher risk of coronary heart disease. But have things changed? Does new research suggest that there might be more to coffee than we had thought before?

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease or atherosclerosis occurs when the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart, are blocked by a gradual build-up of a fat-like substance material on the wall.  The real problem occurs when the arteries become so narrow that they can no longer deliver the essential oxygen via the blood to the heart.

“Caffeine, however, has previously been linked to heart problems along with a higher risk of coronary heart disease.”

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Initially, this can cause pain or discomfort, which can be described as angina. Later, a piece of the fatty substance can break off and cause a blood clot to form. This can then block your coronary artery and the supply of blood with the essential oxygen no longer being accessible to the heart. If this occurs for a certain period of time, the heart can become damaged permanently. This is when a heart attack occurs.

What does new research show?

According to research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and Imperial College, London, scientists have discovered that, contrary to prior belief, individuals who drank coffee compared to those who didn’t, lived longer and had a lower risk of death from heart and gastrointestinal diseases.

This also appears to hold true for risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes, respiratory and kidney disease. The research shows that those who drank a cup of coffee a day were 12% less likely to die from these conditions than those who did not drink any coffee.

Furthermore, if one drinks 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day, it suggests that there is a reduction in the chance of death due to these conditions by 18%. The experiment was held around different countries in Europe and in the United States of America.

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What does the future hold?

While the research does not say that drinking coffee will certainly prolong one’s life, there appears to be a correlation. Roasted coffee is said to have a number of beneficial effects such as that of an antioxidant along with anti-inflammatory, antifibrotic and anticancer effects.

This study cannot firmly recommend drinking coffee and cannot commit that it will have a beneficial effect on a person’s health. However, it does suggest that for many people, drinking coffee will not cause any long-term harm. Since existing evidence is not of the quality required for a definite answer, further randomized control trials need to be constructed to shed more light on this issue. Hopefully, future studies will favour our coffee-drinkers!

Bibliography

Article sources:

  1. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/81/3/539.full
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/behindtheheadlines/news/2017-04-26-four-cups-of-coffee-not-bad-for-health-suggests-review/
  3. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691517301709
  4. http://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/2643435/coffee-drinking-mortality-10-european-countries-multinational-cohort-study
  5. http://www.bmj.com/content/359/bmj.j5024

Image sources:

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  • https://h-o-r-n-g-r-y.tumblr.com/post/157545380661

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