Researchers from Alfred Hospital and Baker Heart Institute in Melbourne, Australia, looked at data from over 500,000 people who were followed for at least 10 years. They evaluated their coffee consumption and its relationship with cardiovascular disease. Participants were grouped based on how much coffee they reported drinking each day.
- No coffee
- Fewer than 1 coffee
- 1 coffee
- 2-3 coffees
- 4-5 coffees
- More than 5 coffees
The researchers controlled for exercise, alcohol, smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure, which could play a role in heart health and longevity and would interfere with results. They then set up three separate studies evaluating whether coffee is beneficial even for people with heart disease, how many cups per day are optimal, and whether decaf offers the same benefits as regular caffeinated coffee.
2-3 cups per day is the sweet spot
In the first study, researchers examined data from 382,535 individuals without known heart disease. They found that the group that reported having 2-3 cups of coffee a day showed the best results. They had a 10%-15% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, heart failure, heart rhythm problems or dying for any reason. Researchers did observe a U-shaped relationship between coffee intake and heart rhythm problems. This means drinking 0-1 coffee and 4 or more coffees showed fewer benefits than 2-3 cups per day.
Your doctor might be wrong about coffee
In the second study, researchers looked at 34,279 people who had some form of cardiovascular disease. They found that coffee intake of 2-3 cups a day was associated with a lower chance of dying compared to having no coffee. But maybe the most interesting finding was that having any amount of coffee was not associated with a higher risk of heart rhythm problems, including atrial fibrillation (AFib) or atrial flutter. For example, people with AFib who drank 1 cup of coffee a day were nearly 20% less likely to die than people with AFib who drank 0 cups.
“Clinicians generally have some apprehension about people with known cardiovascular disease or arrhythmias continuing to drink coffee, so they often err on the side of caution and advise them to stop drinking it altogether due to fears that it may trigger dangerous heart rhythms. But our study shows that regular coffee intake is safe and could be part of a healthy diet for people with heart disease. Coffee drinkers should feel reassured that they can continue to enjoy coffee even if they have heart disease,” said senior author of the study Peter M. Kistler.
Caffeinated coffee is better for your health than decaf
In the third study, the researchers looked at the differences between the effects of instant coffee, ground coffee, and decaf. They found that both ground and instant coffee offered similar benefits and the sweet spot was once again 2-3 cups per day. When they compared caffeinated and decaf coffee, they saw that decaf didn’t have favourable effects against incident arrhythmia. It did reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease with the exception of heart failure. The authors concluded that caffeinated coffee is preferable across the board, and there are no cardiovascular benefits to choosing decaf over caffeinated coffees.
The research shows that your double-shot espresso before a ride might be just what the doctor ordered for your heart. The only problem is that for maximal benefit, you have to limit yourself to no more than 3 cups per day.