Coffee drinking, a regular subject of scientific studies, is once again in the health headlines.
This time the story is in the plus column, because new research from South Korea suggests regular coffee drinkers can benefit from cleaner arteries.
A number of reports have firmly placed coffee under the negative column, connecting coffee consumption with heart risk, by way of heightened cholesterol levels and increased blood pressure. But this new research goes in the other direction, suggesting that for some, coffee could actually protect the heart.
The research published in the journal Heart, assessed heart health by using medical scans. They were studying disease of coronary arteries, the arteries which directly supply the heart with blood.
None of 25,000 office-worker participants showed outward symptoms of heart disease, but the scans of more than one in 10 showed visible calcium deposits. Researchers compared the results against factors including coffee consumption and congenital factors. They found that people who drank a few cups of coffee every day were less likely to have calcium deposits in their coronary arteries than non-drinkers.
Research appears to suggest that coffee can effectively clean the pipes.
Study authors say more research is needed to confirm and explain the coffee drinking link, while the British Heart Foundation’s Victoria Taylor concurs, appearing wary of drawing a direct connection.
“While this study does highlight a potential link between coffee consumption and lower risk of developing clogged arteries, more research is needed to confirm these findings and understand what the reason is for the association.”
Taylor also drew attention to the geographic sample of the survey.
“We need to take care when generalising these results because it is based on the South Korean population, who have different diet and lifestyle habits to people in the UK.”
Could it be that South Korean people are generally healthier than people in the UK? Possibly. Although the study suggests that three to five cups of coffee per day is moderation, some might raise an eyebrow. There are obvious regional variations in the quantity and content of a cup. One regular American serving of coffee with whipped cream and a variety of syrups can be markedly different to one regular Italian serving of an espresso shot.
Coffee drinking habits and behaviors change all the time, all over the world.
Nonetheless, the study is another encouraging indication that drinking coffee, at least in moderation, could be beneficial to human health. But it could be wise to bear in mind that another coffee drinking study could be out next week saying precisely the opposite.
[Image – AP Photo/Ronald Zak]