Long Term Coffee Consumption Does Not Affect Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

By John A. Rumberger, PhD, MD, FACC

Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages around the world, and its association with cardiovascular disease has been investigated in numerous epidemiological studies.

I began my training in Cardiovascular Diseases literally and figuratively in the previous century.  During my early Residency those individuals admitted to the hospital with a heart attack were given strict discharge instructions to NEVER have caffeine and to drink only de-caffeinated beverages due to the apparently known idea that these were ‘stimulants’ and could affect a weakened heart.  It was years later that I learned ‘de-caffeinated’ does NOT mean ‘un-caffeinated’.

Regardless, these old admonitions have been largely loosened over the years; but the controversy about caffeine and heart and stroke risk has remained.  A ‘meta-analysis’ [essentially a re-analysis of previously published articles of small studies to substitute for a very costly large population study] was published in Circulation, the official publication of the American Heart Association, on February 11, 2014.  The article is titled “Long-Term Coffee Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and a Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies”.

The authors investigated the dose-response relationship of long-term coffee consumption with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, including incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and CVD mortality.  A total of 36 prospective [i.e. examining future CVD events] cohort studies on coffee consumption and CVD risk encompassing 1,279,804 study participants.  They found that moderate coffee consumption was associated with actually a lower risk of CVD at 3-5 cups/day compared to those who did not drink coffee.  They also noted that heavy coffee consumption was not associated with an increased risk of CVD.

These data suggest that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee/day actually lowers future CVD ‘risk’ and that heavy coffee consumption, compared to not drinking coffee at all is essentially ‘neutral’ in terms of future CVD risk.  I guess an old dog must continue to learn new tricks!