Daily Coffee May Protect the Heart

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . . . . . .

The latest buzz on coffee? It may be good for your heart, a new, large study suggests.

Drinking light to moderate amounts — up to three cups a day — may lower the risk of stroke, fatal heart disease and all-cause death, researchers found.

“Regular coffee consumption of up to three cups per day is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality and stroke,” said lead researcher Dr. Judit Simon, from the Heart and Vascular Center at Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary.

These benefits might be partly explained by positive alterations in heart structure and function, she said.

Better yet, all types of coffee — caffeinated, decaf, brewed and instant — may offer heart benefits, Simon said.

“In a sub-analysis on types of mostly consumed coffee, decaffeinated coffee was associated with lower risk of all-cause and cardiovascular deaths, but not with lower stroke incidence, suggesting that caffeine is not the main or only component that is responsible for these favorable outcomes,” she said.

Instant coffee was associated with a lower risk of all-cause death, while ground coffee was linked with reduced risk of all-cause and cardiovascular death and lower stroke incidence, she said.

For the study, Simon and her colleagues collected data on nearly 470,000 men and women listed in the U.K. Biobank. At the study’s start, participants had no signs of heart disease and were an average age of 56. They were followed for up to 15 years.

Compared with non-coffee drinkers, those who drank light to moderate amounts had a 12% lower risk of all-cause death. Their odds for stroke were reduced by 21% and fatal heart disease by 17%, the researchers found, though only an association rather than a cause-and-effect link was seen.

The findings remained after the researchers accounted for age, sex, weight, height, smoking status, physical activity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, income and diet.

Using cardiac MRIs, Simon’s group also looked at the effect daily coffee consumption had on the structure and function of the heart among nearly 31,000 people who were followed for 11 years on average.

They found that compared with not drinking coffee regularly, those who drank coffee daily had healthier, better-functioning hearts.

One U.S. heart expert looked over the findings.

“A significant number of observational studies have suggested that regular consumption of coffee is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular events, cardiovascular death and all-cause mortality,” said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, director of the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center in Los Angeles.

These findings add to the body of evidence that coffee consumption, even three to five cups a day, appears to be safe and associated with cardiovascular benefits, he said.

“Potential mechanisms which may account for potential benefits include improved insulin sensitivity, reduced inflammation, improved liver function and antioxidant effects,” Fonarow said. “However, it is important to note that these findings have not been established by prospective randomized clinical trials, so should be interpreted with caution.”

The findings were presented online at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology, but should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. The study received no funding from the coffee industry.

Source: American Heart Association

Excess Coffee: A Bitter Brew for Brain Health

It’s a favourite first-order for the day, but while a quick coffee may perk us up, new research from the University of South Australia shows that too much could be dragging us down, especially when it comes to brain health.

In the largest study of its kind, researchers have found that high coffee consumption is associated with smaller total brain volumes and an increased risk of dementia.

Conducted at UniSA’s Australian Centre for Precision Health at SAHMRI and a team of international researchers, the study assessed the effects of coffee on the brain among 17,702 UK Biobank participants (aged 37-73), finding that those who drank more than six cups of coffee a day had a 53 per cent increased risk of dementia.

Lead researcher and UniSA PhD candidate, Kitty Pham, says the research delivers important insights for public health.

“Coffee is among the most popular drinks in the world. Yet with global consumption being more than nine billion kilograms a year, it’s critical that we understand any potential health implications,” Pham says.

“This is the most extensive investigation into the connections between coffee, brain volume measurements, the risks of dementia, and the risks of stroke – it’s also the largest study to consider volumetric brain imaging data and a wide range of confounding factors.

“Accounting for all possible permutations, we consistently found that higher coffee consumption was significantly associated with reduced brain volume – essentially, drinking more than six cups of coffee a day may be putting you at risk of brain diseases such as dementia and stroke.”

Dementia is a degenerative brain condition that affects memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. About 50 million people are diagnosed with the syndrome worldwide. In Australia, dementia is the second leading cause of death, with an estimated 250 people diagnosed each day.

Stroke is a condition where the blood supply to the brain is disrupted, resulting in oxygen starvation, brain damage and loss of function. Globally, one in four adults over the age of 25 will have a stroke in their lifetime. Data suggests that 13.7 million people will have a stroke this year with 5.5 million dying as a result.

Senior investigator and Director of UniSA’s Australian Centre for Precision Health, Professor Elina Hyppönen, says while the news may be a bitter brew for coffee lovers, it’s all about finding a balance between what you drink and what’s good for your health.

“This research provides vital insights about heavy coffee consumption and brain health, but as with many things in life, moderation is the key,” Prof Hyppönen says.

“Together with other genetic evidence and a randomised controlled trial, these data strongly suggest that high coffee consumption can adversely affect brain health. While the exact mechanisms are not known, one simple thing we can do is to keep hydrated and remember to drink a bit of water alongside that cup of coffee.

“Typical daily coffee consumption is somewhere between one and two standard cups of coffee. Of course, while unit measures can vary, a couple of cups of coffee a day is generally fine.

“However, if you’re finding that your coffee consumption is heading up toward more than six cups a day, it’s about time you rethink your next drink.”

Source: University of South Australia

Study: Even a Little Coffee in Pregnancy Could Impact Newborn’s Weight

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

As little as half a cup of coffee each day might be enough to stunt the growth and birth weight of a baby in the womb, a new study claims.

Women who consumed an average 50 milligrams of caffeine per day — equivalent to half a cup of coffee — had infants that were 2.3 ounces lighter than babies born to women who didn’t drink any caffeine, researchers report.

That amount is a fraction of the daily caffeine consumption limit currently recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the World Health Organization (WHO), said lead researcher Jessica Gleason. She is a postdoctoral researcher with the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

ACOG recommends that pregnant women limit their caffeine consumption to less than 200 milligrams a day, and the WHO suggests less than 300 milligrams daily, Gleason said.

“Our results do stand out in light of those recommendations, because we’re finding that even at lower levels we are seeing these small reductions in size,” Gleason said.

“We always recommend that women discuss their caffeine consumption with their provider,” Gleason added. “Until we know more, our research does suggest that it may be prudent to limit caffeine consumption” during pregnancy.

Previous studies looking at caffeine’s effects on pregnancy relied on women to report how much they consumed daily, Gleason said.

This study took things a step further, using blood samples taken between 10 and 13 weeks of pregnancy from more than 2,000 women at 12 clinical sites in the United States, to determine their exact levels of both caffeine and its metabolite, paraxanthine.

Overall, pregnant women with the highest blood levels of caffeine gave birth to babies that were about 3 ounces lighter, 0.17 inches shorter, 0.11 inches smaller in head circumference, and about 0.13 inches smaller in thigh circumference than the infants of women with no or minimal caffeine in their bloodstream, the researchers found.

These effects on birth size and weight from caffeine are on par with those observed in pregnant smokers, Gleason noted.

“This reduction in birth weight is within the range we see in reductions of birth weight among women who smoke during pregnancy,” Gleason said, noting that smokers tend to deliver babies an average 1.8 to 7 ounces lighter than those of nonsmokers.

The findings were published online in JAMA Network Open.

But while these results are concerning, pregnant women shouldn’t rush to throw out all their coffee beans, tea bags and diet colas, said Dr. Jill Berkin, an assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine with the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.

The results of this study conflict with prior research, which found no significant link between caffeine and fetal growth, Berkin said.

Further, the effects of caffeine on birth size and weight observed here were not enormous, Berkin said, and so it’s hard to say whether these babies would suffer any of the long-term health effects typically associated with stunted fetal development.

These effects can include increased risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes later in life, the researchers said in background notes.

“It was so very small, really only coming out to about 3 ounces of difference in body weight. Whether the 3 ounces has clinical impact on a baby long-term remains to be determined,” Berkin said. “We know there are poorer outcomes associated with babies that are in the less than tenth percentile for expected weight for gestational age, but not smaller reductions in potential fetal weight, so whether that’s clinically significant is really unknown.”

Berkin added that caffeine did not significantly affect one crucial measure of fetal development — abdominal circumference.

“Traditionally when looking at fetal growth, abdominal circumference is probably the most important feature of predicting which fetuses are larger and which fetuses are smaller,” Berkin said. “In the calculations that we use to determine fetal growth, abdominal circumference is weighed heavier than all the other parameters.”

There are several theoretical reasons to suspect that caffeine could inhibit fetal growth, Gleason said.

“We know that caffeine and its primary metabolite paraxanthine both cross the placenta, but the fetus lacks the enzymes to break down or clear caffeine from its system,” Gleason said. As caffeine builds up in fetal tissues, it could disrupt growth in the womb.

Prolonged exposure to caffeine could also cause blood vessels in the uterus and placenta to constrict, which could reduce blood supply to the fetus and inhibit growth, Gleason said.

Caffeine also might disrupt normal hormonal processes in fetal development, she added.

“The results of a single study are never going to allow us to make any sort of recommendations, but just this evidence alone should certainly spark additional research into low-level caffeine consumption and size at birth and growth restrictions,” Gleason said.

Birth size is not the only thing that can be affected by coffee consumption during pregnancy: Research published earlier this year in the journal Neuropharmacology found that too much coffee during pregnancy was linked to a higher risk for behavioral problems among children.

Source: HealthDay

Is Any Amount of Coffee Safe for Baby During Pregnancy?

Denise Mann wrote . . . . . . . . .

Too much coffee during pregnancy could lead to kids with behavior problems later on.

That’s the key takeaway from new research that examined 9,000 brain scans from 9- and 10-year-olds as part of the largest long-term study of brain development and child health.

“The goalposts are moved by caffeine, and there are subtle, but real changes in behavioral outcomes in most kids who were exposed to caffeine in utero,” said study author John Foxe. He is director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y.

“This may not make a meaningful difference in the behaviors of some kids, but for those who are vulnerable in other ways, it may flip them over the threshold,” Foxe added.

For years, pregnant women have been told to limit their caffeine intake to lower their risk for miscarriage or preterm birth, but this new study suggests that pregnant women who consume any coffee may be more likely to have kids with behavioral issues later in life.

Brain scans of kids whose mothers consumed caffeine during pregnancy showed changes in pathways that could lead to behavioral problems later on, including attention difficulties and hyperactivity. The changes tracked with higher scores on checklists for problem behaviors seen among kids whose moms reported drinking coffee while pregnant.

Most of the behavioral issues seen in the kids were minor, but noticeable, Foxe said. Other risks for developing behavioral issues include family history and some social and economic factors, he added.

While it’s known the fetus can’t break down caffeine when it crosses the placenta, Foxe said exactly how or at what point in pregnancy caffeine leads to these changes is not fully understood.

The study did not find any changes in the children’s intelligence or thinking ability.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to 200 milligrams per day. That’s about two 6-ounce cups, but even that may be too much, the study suggested.

“I would advise pregnant women to take in as little caffeine as possible and switch to decaf altogether if they can,” Foxe said.

But he urged women not to go cold turkey if they can help it, because caffeine withdrawal can cause a host of symptoms, including headaches, irritability, nausea and difficulty concentrating.

“We don’t know what withdrawal, irritability, stress and anxiety will do to a pregnancy,” Foxe said. “Try to whittle away at your caffeine consumption before you get pregnant.”

The study does have some limitations. Women were asked to recall how much caffeine they consumed while pregnant, and memory isn’t always 100% accurate.

The findings were recently published online in the journal Neuropharmacology.

Dr. Mark Klebanoff, principal investigator at the Center for Perinatal Research in Columbus, Ohio, said many studies have looked at the effects of caffeine on pregnancy outcomes, such as risk of miscarriage. But less is known about how caffeine affects kids as they age.

“The new study adds to the literature, but it’s not enough to really implicate caffeine in any strong way,” said Klebanoff, who was not involved with the study but reviewed the findings.

“Pregnant women can be reasonably reassured that consuming less than 200 milligrams per day of caffeine will not cause miscarriage or preterm birth,” he said. But more study is needed on how it affects child development, Klebanoff added.

“A typical cup at home has about 100 mg of caffeine, so women can limit themselves to two cups a day when pregnant,” he said.

But they should keep in mind that other sources of caffeine (such as energy drinks, power bars and chocolate) should be considered as part of the total, Klebanoff said.

Source: HealthDay

Drinking More Coffee Associated with Decreased Heart Failure Risk

Dietary information from three large, well-known heart disease studies suggests drinking one or more cups of caffeinated coffee may reduce heart failure risk, according to research published today in Circulation: Heart Failure, an American Heart Association journal.

Coronary artery disease, heart failure and stroke are among the top causes of death from heart disease in the U.S. “While smoking, age and high blood pressure are among the most well-known heart disease risk factors, unidentified risk factors for heart disease remain,” according to David P. Kao, M.D., senior author of the study, assistant professor of cardiology and medical director at the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, Colorado.

“The risks and benefits of drinking coffee have been topics of ongoing scientific interest due to the popularity and frequency of consumption worldwide,” said Linda Van Horn, Ph.D., R.D., professor and Chief of the Department of Preventive Medicine’s Nutrition Division at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and member of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee. “Studies reporting associations with outcomes remain relatively limited due to inconsistencies in diet assessment and analytical methodologies, as well as inherent problems with self-reported dietary intake.”

Kao and colleagues used machine learning through the American Heart Association’s Precision Medicine Platform to examine data from the original cohort of the Framingham Heart Study and referenced it against data from both the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study and the Cardiovascular Health Study to help confirm their findings. Each study included at least 10 years of follow-up, and, collectively, the studies provided information on more than 21,000 U.S. adult participants.

To analyze the outcomes of drinking caffeinated coffee, researchers categorized consumption as 0 cups per day, 1 cup per day, 2 cups per day and ≥3 cups per day. Across the three studies, coffee consumption was self-reported, and no standard unit of measure were available.

The analysis revealed:

  • In all three studies, people who reported drinking one or more cups of caffeinated coffee had an associated decreased long-term heart failure risk.
  • In the Framingham Heart and the Cardiovascular Health studies, the risk of heart failure over the course of decades decreased by 5-to-12% per cup per day of coffee, compared with no coffee consumption.
  • In the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, the risk of heart failure did not change between 0 to 1 cup per day of coffee; however, it was about 30% lower in people who drank at least 2 cups a day.
  • Drinking decaffeinated coffee appeared to have an opposite effect on heart failure risk – significantly increasing the risk of heart failure in the Framingham Heart Study. In the Cardiovascular Health Study however; there was no increase or decrease in risk of heart failure associated with drinking decaffeinated coffee. When the researchers examined this further, they found caffeine consumption from any source appeared to be associated with decreased heart failure risk, and caffeine was at least part of the reason for the apparent benefit from drinking more coffee.

“The association between caffeine and heart failure risk reduction was surprising. 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,” Kao said. “However, 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.”

According to the federal dietary guidelines, three to five 8-ounce cups of coffee per day can be part of a healthy diet, but that only refers to plain black coffee. The American Heart Association warns that popular coffee-based drinks such as lattes and macchiatos are often high in calories, added sugar and fat. In addition, despite its benefits, research has shown that caffeine also can be dangerous if consumed in excess. Additionally, children should avoid caffeine. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that, in general, kids avoid beverages with caffeine.

“While unable to prove causality, it is intriguing that these three studies suggest that drinking coffee is associated with a decreased risk of heart failure and that coffee can be part of a healthy dietary pattern if consumed plain, without added sugar and high fat dairy products such as cream,” said Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D.N., immediate past chairperson of the American Heart Association’s Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Council Leadership Committee, Evan Pugh University Professor of Nutritional Sciences and distinguished professor of nutrition at The Pennsylvania State University, College of Health and Human Development in University Park. “The bottom line: enjoy coffee in moderation as part of an overall heart-healthy dietary pattern that meets recommendations for fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat/non-fat dairy products, and that also is low in sodium, saturated fat and added sugars. Also, it is important to be mindful that caffeine is a stimulant and consuming too much may be problematic – causing jitteriness and sleep problems.”

Study limitations that may have impacted the results of the analysis included differences in the way coffee drinking was recorded and the type of coffee consumed. For example, drip, percolated, French press or espresso coffee types; origin of the coffee beans; and filtered or unfiltered coffee were details not specified. There also may have been variability regarding the unit measurement for 1 cup of coffee (i.e., how many ounces per cup). These factors could result in different caffeine levels. In addition, researchers caution that the original studies detailed only caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee, therefore these findings may not apply to energy drinks, caffeinated teas, soda and other food items with caffeine including chocolate.

Source: American Heart Association