Spotlight on coffee consumption and risk factors for CVD

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Behavioural risk factors are responsible for about 80% of cardiovascular diseases. The most important behavioural risk factors of heart disease and stroke are unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol. The effects of these risk factors may show up in individuals as raised blood pressure, raised blood glucose, raised blood lipids, and overweight and obesity. Click here for more information.

Coffee and risk factors

Extensive research has been devoted to associations between coffee consumption and key risk factors for cardiovascular disease.  The majority of prospective cohort studies do not show an association with coffee consumption, with the potential exception of a small protective effect in women. Whilst further research is required, current evidence suggests the following in relation to specific risk factors:

Risk Factor Research Highlights
Blood pressure Although the precise nature of the relationship between coffee and blood pressure is still unclear, overall the evidence suggests that regular intake of caffeinated coffee does not increase the risk of hypertension.
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Cholesterol The diterpenes, cafestol, and, to a lesser extent, kahweol, are naturally found in coffee oil and known to raise serum cholesterol levels. Cafestol and kahweol are largely retained in the paper filter in filtered coffee and soluble coffee contains hardly any of them.  Both of these types of coffee have virtually no effect on cholesterol levels.  Moderate consumption of espresso also has negligible effects as levels are lower than unfiltered coffee and serving sizes are small. Scandinavian boiled coffee, Cafetière (plunger pot) Greek and Turkish coffee contain cafestol and kahweol in higher amounts. Consuming substantial amounts of these types of coffee can raise serum cholesterol levels. The effects on cholesterol levels are transient after the cessation of consumption.
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Blood glucose Type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for CVD.  The effect of coffee consumption on glucose metabolism needs to be clarified, however research on the effects of caffeine is available. Whereas acute intake of caffeine-drugs may impair glucose metabolism, chronic intake of caffeine exclusively from diet has little effect on glucose metabolism. A substantial amount of research suggests that moderate coffee consumption is dose dependently associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
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Blood homocysteine  There is some evidence from intervention studies that high levels of coffee consumption (6 to 10 cups of coffee per day) increases blood homocysteine levels. However, it is still unclear whether reducing high homocysteine levels will lead to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and no causal relationship has been established between high total plasma homocysteine levels (tHCYs) and cardiovascular disease.
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