Junkfood Science: I’ll have a double espresso

December 05, 2007

I’ll have a double espresso

How often have we secretly feared that our love of Italian espresso might give us a heart attack? Leave it to Italian cardiologists to get to the bottom of this!

A study just published the journal Circulation, led by Maria Giuseppina Silletta, MSc, examined the records of 11,231 Italian cardiac patients enrolled into the GISSI (Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell’Infarto miocardico) Prevenzione trial within the first three months after having heart attacks. The patients were followed at 172 Italian cardiology clinics (examined at 6,12,18, 30, and 42 months) and had extensive work-ups done, including specific questions about their coffee consumption.

The heaviest coffee drinkers were more likely to smoke, to have “poor diets,” to be younger and be obese; and to have less hypertension, diabetes, history of heart attacks or heart failure. During the 3.5-year study period, there were 1,167 cardiovascular events, including 670 cardiac-related deaths.

The researchers found no association between coffee consumption and cardiovascular events, heart attacks or strokes, among these patients — even after carefully adjusting for age, gender, smoking, cardiac history, BMI, hypertension, diabetes, exercise stress testing, left ventricular ejection fraction, angina, dietary factors, and cardiac procedures and medications. In fact, those drinking more than 4 cups a day showed an untenable 12% lower risk for later cardiovascular events compared to noncoffee drinkers.

Nor did the researchers find any effect of coffee intake on the risk for sudden cardiac death. “The findings for sudden death are of particular interest because of the concern that coffee consumption may increase fatal arrhythmias,” they concluded.

These findings were consistent with the bulk of the evidence to date. “The majority of prospective cohort studies have not found a significant association between coffee consumption and risk of CHD,” they wrote. But this study is the first to evaluate the effects on a large group of patients with established heart disease, who would be the most vulnerable to any adverse effects of coffee.

The authors cautioned that the majority of their Italian patients drink espresso coffee, so “the results may not be applicable to other populations that use different methods of coffee preparation.”

In other words, stick to the good and strong stuff? We can do that. :)

(No, the study wasn’t funded by the espresso industry.)

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