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Moderate Coffee Consumption Could Provide Health Benefits

Update Date: Jun 26, 2012 12:59 PM EDT

Everyone loves a cup of coffee to get the day started? But how much is too much and what are some of the benefits for having a cup a day. According to research from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, moderate coffee consumption could offer protection against heart failure.

The study was published in the June 26 online in the Journal Circulation: Heart Failure and revealed that moderate coffee drinkers were at 11 percent lower risk of heart failure.

"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," says lead author Elizabeth Mostofsky, MPH, ScD, a post-doctoral fellow in the cardiovascular epidemiological unit at 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."

According to the findings, benefits begin to increase with consumption maxing out at two eight-ounce American servings a day. Protection slowly decreases the more coffee is consumed until at five cups, there is no benefit and at more than five cups a day, there may be potential for harm.

Researchers say it is unclear why reasonable coffee consumption provides protection from heart failure, but point out that the answer may lie in the intersection between regular coffee drinking and two of the strongest risk factors for heart failure - diabetes and elevated blood pressure.

Data was analyzed from five previous studies - four conducted in Sweden, one in Finland - that examined the association between coffee consumption and heart failure. The self-reported data came from 140,220 participants and involved 6,522 heart failure events.

According to Senior Author Murray Mittleman, "there is a good deal of research showing that drinking coffee lowers the risk for type 2 diabetes."

"It stands to reason that if you lower the risk of diabetes, you also lower the risk of heart failure," Mittleman said.

In addition to reducing the risk of heart failure, moderate coffee and caffeine consumption are known to control blood pressure. Past studies have repeatedly shown that light coffee and caffeine consumption might actually be bad for the blood pressure. American Heart Association heart failure prevention guidelines warn against habitual coffee consumption.

"But at that moderate range of consumption, people tend to develop a tolerance where drinking coffee does not pose a risk and may even be protective against elevated blood pressure," Mittleman said.

This study was not able to assess the strength of the coffee, nor did it look at caffeinated versus non-caffeinated coffee.

"There is clearly more research to be done," says Mostofsky. "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."

The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

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