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The Latest on the Heart Health Benefits of Coffee

January 9, 2014

The health benefits of moderate coffee consumption have long been known by scientists, but a recent study conducted by researchers in Okinawa, Japan may have figured out just how coffee can improve cardiovascular health.

heart-health-coffeeThe study took 27 healthy adults between the ages of 22 and 30 who were not regular coffee drinkers and gave them one five ounce cup of caffeinated coffee, then measured participants “reactive hyperemia” in their index fingers to determine the efficiency of their blood vessels. This process was then repeated with decaffeinated coffee two days later.

The researchers, led by Masato Tsutsui, found that when participants drank caffeinated coffee, their blood vessel function in their left index finger was improved by 30% over a 75-minute period. In other words, their blood flow was better after drinking caffeinated coffee than decaffeinated coffee.

This study could help explain the findings of previous studies that suggested moderate coffee drinking could reduce the risk of heart failure. However, it’s important to remember that Tsutsui’s study was extremely small in scope and, while the findings are interesting, they are in no way conclusive.

While more research certainly needs to be done to reach any definitive conclusions, the study’s observations are a step in the right direction toward figuring out why and how coffee can be beneficial to heart health. However,  just as moderate amounts (about two cups) can have positive health benefits, too much coffee can have serious health consequences. Drinking excessive amounts (upwards of five to six cups a day) can negatively affect heart health by raising blood pressure and increasing heart rate.

So, though we don’t recommend relying on coffee as your main line of defense against heart failure—far from it, in fact!—you can feel good about your daily cup of joe. We’ll keep you posted as more research on the strange and mysterious effects of coffee is conducted.

Are you a coffee drinking? What do you think about the potential findings of this study?