What’s the Deal with Coffee and Cardiovascular Disease: Risk or Benefit?

Coffee and heart health

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. It’s also a big business. Who can deny the success of coffee chains like Starbucks?  That’s because people love their morning cup of Joe! As it turns out, coffee isn’t just something to warm you up on chilly days or give you a boost before a big meeting. There’s evidence that drinking coffee can lower your risk of some health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, gallstones, and liver disease. But what effect does drinking coffee have on cardiovascular disease risk?

Moderate Coffee Consumption May Be Beneficial

If you drink a few cups of coffee every day, your heart may thank you. Observational studies link moderate coffee consumption (two to four cups daily) may modestly lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to drinking no coffee.

A large observational study of almost 470,000 adults found that drinking half to three cups of coffee daily over more than a decade was associated with a 17% reduction in death from cardiovascular disease, a 21% reduction in stroke risk, and a 12% lower risk of death from all causes. It didn’t matter whether the coffee was caffeinated or decaffeinated.

Another study found drinking 3-5 cups of coffee per day is associated with a 15% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and drinking more coffee has not been linked with greater cardiovascular risk.

However, the researchers found benefits only from ground and filtered coffee, not instant. Other observational studies reveal similar rewards, with the optimal amount of coffee between two to four cups per day. Keep in mind that these were observational studies, not double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, the type you need to say that coffee was the reason for the reduction of cardiovascular risk.

Why Might Coffee Be Heart Healthy?

The caffeine content of coffee may contribute to its health benefits. However, some studies show decaffeinated coffee also has protective benefits. Coffee contains polyphenols and antioxidants, which may explain why they’re heart-healthy. For example, coffee contains chlorogenic acid (CLA), which is an antioxidant that prevents oxidative damage to tissues and cells.

The antioxidants in coffee have anti-inflammatory effects that may protect against cardiovascular disease. Some studies show that coffee reduces markers of inflammation in the bloodstream. Why is this important? Inflammation damages the inner walls of arteries, making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis, or plaque formation, which increases the risk of heart attacks.

The Type of Coffee You Drink Matters, Too

 Not all coffee is the same when it comes to the health of your heart. Some research shows unfiltered coffee affects blood lipid levels differently from filtered coffee. Unfiltered coffee can raise LDL cholesterol levels, whereas filtered coffee does not.  The reason is unfiltered coffee contains diterpenes, cafestol, and kahweol, which raise cholesterol.

When you filter coffee, you remove most of these chemicals. So, Turkish coffee, espresso, and French press coffee may cause a rise in cholesterol because the coffee doesn’t pass through a paper filter. This may offset some of the heart-health benefits of coffee.

Coffee May Have Other Benefits Beyond the Morning Buzz

Aside from heart health benefits, coffee may also improve brain function and protect against Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Coffee contains antioxidants and other nutrients that can help prevent cell damage and reduce inflammation. Some studies also show that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of death than non-coffee drinkers. While more research is needed to determine the exact benefits of coffee, there are many potential benefits beyond heart health.

Some Caveats to Consider

Caffeine is a stimulant, so it can make you feel more awake and energetic.  But if your body doesn’t need that extra energy, too much caffeine can have the opposite effect — it will make you feel jittery, anxious, and hyperactive.

The same goes for caffeinated coffee. If you already have cardiovascular disease or an irregular heart rhythm history, talk to your doctor about whether you should consume coffee. Surprisingly, research doesn’t support the idea that coffee raises blood pressure. However, you should still talk to your physician before drinking coffee if you have hypertension.

There’s another consideration. Some people metabolize or break down caffeine slower than others. Slow metabolizers are at higher risk of caffeine side effects since caffeine stays longer in their body.


The news about coffee and heart health is good, although it needs more research. Although the studies are observational, there are reasons why filtered coffee could lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. The most compelling one is the anti-inflammatory benefits of coffee.

If you drink coffee or want to start drinking it, don’t rely solely on this beverage for protection against cardiovascular disease. Look for ways to improve your diet and exercise habits to reduce stress and increase positive emotions. These are more effective strategies for reducing heart attack risk than just adding a daily cup of Joe to the mix.


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