A new peer-reviewed paper has been published that seems to indicate that coffee consumption is linked to reduced risks of cardiovascular disease and mortality. As I am writing this article while drinking a large cup of coffee, I can only say, “awesome!”
But those of you who read my articles demand more than “awesome,” but you want me to take a look at the article and determine if it meets the standards of good science. I think it does, but let’s take a better look.
Coffee and cardiovascular disease risk paper
In a paper published on 7 December 2022 in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, Peter M Kistler, Ph.D., and colleagues examined whether habitual coffee consumption had a positive effect on the risk of incident arrhythmia, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and mortality. Cardiovascular diseases included coronary heart disease, cardiac failure, and ischemic stroke.
The researchers divided participants into various coffee subtypes — decaffeinated, ground, and instant, then divided into 0, <1, 1, 2–3, 4–5, and >5 cups/day, and compared with non-drinkers. A total of 449,563 participants (median 58 years, 55.3% females) were followed over 12.5 ± 0.7 years using data from the UK Biobank, a large database of over 500,000 people that tracks genetics and environmental exposure (like drinking coffee) to the development of disease.
The researchers published the following results:
- Ground and instant coffee consumption were associated with a significant reduction in arrhythmia at 1–5 cups/day but not for decaffeinated coffee. The lowest risk was 4–5 cups/day for ground coffee, with a hazard ratio (HR) = 0.83. The next lowest risk was 2–3 cups/day for instant coffee, HR = 0.88.
- All coffee subtypes were associated with a reduction in incident CVD vs. non-drinkers.
- All-cause mortality was significantly reduced for all coffee subtypes, with the greatest risk reduction seen with 2–3 cups/day for decaffeinated, HR = 0.86, ground coffee, HR = 0.73, and instant coffee, HR = 0.89.
The authors concluded:
Decaffeinated, ground, and instant coffee, particularly at 2–3 cups/day, were associated with significant reductions in incident CVD and mortality. Ground and instant but not decaffeinated coffee was associated with reduced arrhythmia.
The star rating
This was an interesting study that had a large population that was included, nearly ½ million participants. However, this is a nutritional study, and as I have written before, these types of studies are prone to a couple of issues that diminish their usefulness — first, the amount of coffee consumed is dependent on self-reporting, so it might be inexact, and second, there might be confounders in the data such as there might be lower obesity in the coffee drinkers.
This type of observational study may show a correlation between coffee consumption and lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality, but it does not provide evidence of causation. That will take further study and a better explanation of what mechanisms might be at play.
I give this study a 4 out of 5 stars, and it does make me feel better about the amount of coffee I drink. I will have to see if Starbucks puts this study on its website.
- Chieng D, Canovas R, Segan L, Sugumar H, Voskoboinik A, Prabhu S, Ling LH, Lee G, Morton JB, Kaye DM, Kalman JM, Kistler PM. The impact of coffee subtypes on incident cardiovascular disease, arrhythmias, and mortality: long-term outcomes from the UK Biobank. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2022 Dec 7;29(17):2240-2249. doi: 10.1093/eurjpc/zwac189. PMID: 36162818.
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