Healthier Hearts for Women - Drink Coffee

Women who drink coffee have a lower risk of developing coronary artery disease, according to the results of an investigation published in the May issue of the Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. Dr. Johanna M. Geleijnse of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and colleagues write. "Coffee is an important dietary factor, because it is one of the most widely used pharmacologically active beverages.

Investigators measured the effect of coronary artery calcification in 1570 men and women 55 years of age or older without coronary heart disease – 98% of the participants drank coffee; reported through questionnaires. Both groups included men and women who smoked - 28% and 19% respectively. The men drank five cups of coffee daily, compared to four cups among the women.

Electron beam CT was used to determine the amount of coronary artery calcification. The results showed that only 18% of the women had evidence of calcification, compared with 39% of the men. Analysis of the results showed that women who consumed greater than 3 to 4 cups of coffee daily or more than 4 cups had either significant or high reduction of coronary calcification, depending on their daily coffee intake. Coronary artery calcium scoring using CT has been shown to be an excellent predictor of coronary artery disease that leads to heart attack and stroke.

The men did not show any increased risk for heart disease, but the benefits seemed to be negligible.

Dr. Geleijnse said in an interview with Reuters Health, "Coffee is a rich source of antioxidants, including polyphenols, and may exert a beneficial effect in the cardiovascular system. Historically, coffee was considered to have adverse effects on health," she said. "However, evidence is now accumulating that regular coffee consumption does not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, and may prevent diabetes. Coffee is a main source of phytoestrogens, especially the isoflavones daidzein, genistein, and formononetin. Furthermore, it contains fair amounts of the minerals potassium and magnesium and polyphenols, which are strong antioxidants.”

Coffee that contains coffee diterpenes (kahweol and cafestol) increase cholesterol levels in the body - Turkish coffee, French coffee, boiled coffee and others that are prepared without a paper filter. Coffee diterpene cafestol occurs in both robusta and arabica beans

To get the most from coffee, choose organic whenever possible. Drink a cup to boost physical performance during sports activities. Studies have found that caffeine increased muscle contractility in endurance-trained cyclists, making it a performance enhancer, even in hot, dry conditions.

The investigators plan to continue their research to determine exactly which substances contribute to the heart protection provided by a steaming cup of filtered coffee. The news is great for any coffee lover! Just remember not to overdo it - caffeine overdoses are very real.

Source: Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2008; 28:1018-1023.