Two cups of coffee a day may keep heart failure away

Physicians may start devising an unlikely prescription when taking preventative measures against heart failure. According to a new study released in the Journal Circulation: Heart Failure on June 26, a piping cup of joe could be just what the doctor ordered to reduce risk for the prominent cardiovascular issue.

The recent report compiled data from five studies, conducted prior in Sweden and Finland, scrutinizing the potential relationship between coffee consumption and heart failure. After pouring over 140,220 participant profiles, 6,522 of which involved incidents of heart failure, researchers found that subjects who drank coffee in moderation decreased their risk for the cardiovascular condition by 11 percent. The summary of the report distills the authors’ primary source of evidence — a “statistically significant J-shaped relationship” that outlined the range where java consumption was actually beneficial. Protective benefits began their slow descent toward the disadvantageous realm following the study’s recommended two eight-ounce American servings a day, tapering off of the auspicious path altogether at five cups or more. 

"Our results did show a possible benefit, but like with so many other things we consume, it really depends on how much coffee you drink," said lead author Elizabeth Mostofsky, MPH, ScD, a post-doctoral fellow in the cardiovascular epidemiological unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). "And compared with no consumption, the strongest protection we observed was at about four European, or two eight-ounce American, servings of coffee per day."

Should physicians send their patients on an express route to espresso? Not necessarily — according to some medical experts, the evidence supporting the positive nutritional value that accompanies a latte isn’t surefire, and thus shouldn’t warrant physician approval so easily.

"The evidence is not strong enough to recommend that people should drink coffee to protect themselves," Arthur Klatsky, MD, an adjunct investigator with the Division of Research at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, Calif, told HealthDay. In Klatsky’s opinion, Mostofsky’s study and those similar do not control for other lifestyle factors that may be attributing more to the decreased risk for heart failure than the coffee itself. "It could be that people who drink coffee also exercise more or have better diets," he said.

Previous animal studies have shown coffee’s adverse affect on the heart, where a caffeinated cup proved to raise blood pressure. "Since high blood pressure is a risk factor for many types of cardiovascular disease, researchers assumed that coffee would be harmful,” said Murray Mittleman, MD, a senior study author and director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at BIDMC.

Despite these initial clouds in the coffee, Mittleman noted that “several studies have shown that although there is an increase in blood pressure shortly after consumption, there are health benefits over the long-term." More research endeavors have also turned in an affable review regarding to coffee's do-gooder role in other dominions of health, as it can reduce risk for numerous medical conditions such as stroke, depression, type 2 diabetes, dementia and many types of cancer.

The American Heart Association’s current coffee/caffeine consumption recommendation for heart failure patients is no more than one to two cups a day. This, in conjunction with the findings of Mostofsky’s study, provoked most of the mentioned experts to make one general assertion: People who are at risk for heart failure who drink coffee with a strict degree of temperance should not be implored by their physician to cut back on their coffee intake.  

 "There is clearly more research to be done," Mostofsky said. "But in the short run, this data may warrant a change to the guidelines to reflect that coffee consumption, in moderation, may provide some protection from heart failure."

Approximately 5 million people in the United States have dealt with heart failure, and 300,000 people die because of it annually. Granted this stark reality swirling about heart failure, the fact that coffee, in moderation, doesn’t additionally stir the pot is bound to give many java-lovers a much needed pick-me-up.

The research was funded with grants from the National Institutes of Health. The study’s other authors include Megan Rice, ScD, and Emily Levitan, ScD.

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