(Azmina Govindji) Hello and welcome, today I’m joined by Dr Esther Lopez-Garcia, Associate Professor from the Universidad Autonoma in Madrid, Spain. Dr Lopez-Garcia is an epidemiologist who has conducted several studies in the area of coffee and health, in particular, in relation to cardiovascular disease.
Dr Lopez-Garcia, thank you so much for joining us. Now, we know that heart disease is still a major concern across Europe, so can you share with us some of your findings on coffee consumption amongst those people who already have cardiovascular disease, or on those who are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease?
(Dr. Esther Lopez-Garcia) We found that among people who already have had a cardiovascular event, habitual coffee consumption did not increase the risk of having a second fatal event. In addition, we also looked at diabetic patients and we didn’t find an increased risk among them.
(Azmina) And are there any groups who should be more aware of their coffee consumption?
(Esther) Yes, I think people with arrhythmias, insomnia, anxiety or gastric reflux should ask for personalised medical advice.
(Azmina) And what about hypertensive people?
(Esther) We found that habitual coffee consumption didn’t increase their blood pressure.
(Azmina) Right, now that’s within those groups. What about healthy individuals?
(Esther) We conducted a study with over 150,000 men and women from the US, and what we found is that, after 24 years of follow up, those who drank coffee did not have a higher number of cardiovascular events in comparison to those who didn’t drink coffee. What we found was that among them, consumption of two or more cups of coffee per day was associated with a 20% lower risk of having a stroke. So this may suggest that habitual coffee consumption may have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health.
(Azmina) So that’s really interesting! Are there any naturally occurring compounds in coffee that could be responsible for this effect?
(Esther) Yes, coffee has a very complex mix of compounds. Apart from caffeine, in coffee we can find chlorogenic acid, which is a phenolic compound. We can also find magnesium, trigonelline, quinides, and some research suggests that these compounds may improve glucose metabolism and they have antioxidant properties that are able to reduce inflammatory levels in the body. What we believe is that these beneficial effects that we observe in these compounds can offset the acute effects of caffeine. So, in habitual coffee consumers, who develop tolerance to caffeine, coffee may have some beneficial cardiovascular effects.
(Azmina) And do the levels of these compounds vary depending on the type of coffee that you drink?
(Esther) Yes, I think the levels depend on the coffee blend and also the roast levels.
(Azmina) So we all take our coffee differently, whether it be instant or espresso. Does the method of preparation influence the effect coffee would have of cardiovascular health?
(Esther) It may influence. There are two main types of preparation of coffee – non filtered method and filtered method. We know that in the filtered method some compounds in coffee, especially diterpenes are retained in the filter and this doesn’t happen in the non filtered method. Some studies suggest that those diterpenes can increase total cholesterol levels in blood. We tried to address this question and examine whether we would find differences between people who consumed filtered coffee versus people who consumed non filtered coffee. And we didn’t find differences in terms of total cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol levels. But still this is an open question and we need more research on this.
(Azmina) So is there a heart healthy limit for coffee consumption?
(Esther) In our studies, consumption up to 6 cups of coffee per day didn’t show an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
(Azmina) So I’m afraid we’re nearly running out of time and it’s been so insightful to hear about your research on coffee and people with heart disease or those who at greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Now, as a healthcare professional, what’s really interesting to me is what practical advice you would give to healthcare professionals so that they can relay this to their patients?
(Esther) Well I would say that, in healthy people, moderate coffee consumption does not increase their cardiovascular risk.
(Azmina) And what do you mean by moderate?
(Esther) Well I guess it depends on the cup size. In the US cup sizes are larger than in Europe. So I would call moderate coffee consumption in the US 2-3 cups of coffee a day. But I would call moderate coffee consumption in Europe 3-4 cups of coffee per day.
(Azmina) So what about those people who already have cardiovascular disease?
(Esther) Well our research suggests that moderate consumption among those who already have a cardiovascular event or are diabeteic, (coffee consumption) doesn’t increase the risk of having a second cardiovascular event.
(Azmina) Thank you so much for joining us, that was really insightful. And if that’s left you thirsty for more, then go online to coffeeandhealth.org for more research and vodcasts on coffee and health. And if you like to tweet, the follow @coffeeandhealth for news on coffee, caffeine and health. Thanks so much for joining us.