Conclusive evidence on the effects of coffee has been hard to come by due to the inherent problems with self-reported intake.
Your definition of one cup may be different to the next guy’s, and then there’s the differences in preparation. Cold brew, espresso or whatever the hell an aeropress is? All produce different results as well as tastes. Which is why the University of Colorado School of Medicine opted to use machine learning in its assessment. Contrasting the results from three different studies, each including over 10 years of follow up data and, collectively, information on over 20,000 adults, this may well be the most comprehensive analysis of coffee to date.
The results of the study come as a surprise and something of a welcome relief for the caffeine addicts among us (this writer included). First off, across all three studies, those who reported an intake of one or more cups a day “had an associated decreased long-term heart failure risk”. In two of the three studies, the risk of heart failure over the course of decades reduced by 5-12 per cent per cup of coffee consumed, compared to no coffee consumed. Even more interesting was the fact that drinking non-caffeinated coffee actually has the opposite effect, increasing the risk of heart failure.
“The association between caffeine and heart failure risk reduction was surprising,” summarised the author of the study David Kao. “Coffee and caffeine are often considered by the general population to be ‘bad’ for the heart because people associate them with palpitations, high blood pressure, etc. The consistent relationship between increasing caffeine consumption and decreasing heart failure risk turns that assumption on its head.”
‘So, you’re saying I should drink more coffee?’
Slow down there champ. While this comparative study represents a milestone for our knowledge of the effects of coffee and caffeine, Kao says there is a way to go before the results are conclusive.
“There is not yet enough clear evidence to recommend increasing coffee consumption to decrease risk of heart disease with the same strength and certainty as stopping smoking, losing weight or exercising,” he cautions. “It is important to be mindful that caffeine is a stimulant and consuming too much may be problematic – causing jitteriness and sleep problems.”
Still, at a time when good news is hard to come by, we’re taking this as a win.