Study links coffee consumption to lower risk of heart failure, stroke



There has been yet another study attempting to determine whether coffee is good for people or not. This age old question is particularly relevant as university students head into the final few weeks of the fall semester. Can we drink a few cups of coffee to keep us going through those long study hours? Or are we putting our health at risk? Heart health researchers think they may have the answer.

In a report presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2017 earlier this month, researchers concluded that a diet based on plants and rich in coffee may be best for your health.

The study, by senior author David Kao, MD, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, actually consisted of several studies worth of data and used machine learning to pick out similarities.

“Machine learning is a method that’s been around, actually, for a very long time,” says Donna Arnett, American Heart Association past president and current Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health in Lexington. Arnett said she has used the technique in her own studies in the past and describes it as “a way of taking groups of variables and classifying them into what they call trees.” The researchers then pick out which variables they want to look at in relation to the outcome their interested in. Included in the data was information from the Framingham Heart Study, a study that has been going on since 1948. Also included were Cardiovascular Heart Study and the Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities Study.

In the case of this study, researchers found a connection between coffee consumption and the prediction of heart failure and stroke that lined up in the data of all three studies. Coffee consumption was linked with a lower risk of heart failure – seven per cent per cup – and also a lower risk of stroke — eight per cent per cup. These numbers connect to cups per week and are compared with people who drink no coffee at all.

Kao and his team also looked at the consumption of red meat, though the data on that subject was less clear, likely because different studies define ‘red meat’ in different ways but a cup of coffee is just a cup of coffee.

So what does this mean for the coffee consuming masses, and for those who have so far chosen not to partake? Maybe nothing. The study is quick to point out that this type of study only points out a potential connection, but does not yet prove cause and effect.

“There have been a number of other studies that have shown the protective effects of coffee,” said Arnett. “The effective was very small… I think what’s interesting here is that these researchers utilized a very novel method, the machine learning method, and then they replicated it from the Framingham heart study and two other studies showing that the effect was consistent across those different studies.”

While it may not be time for our non-coffee-drinking friends to join the Tim Hortons line with us, those of use who drink a few cups of coffee a day can rest assured that yet another study has suggested coffee may be good for our hearts. Of course, it should be noted that the study focuses on the coffee itself, and that the cream and sugar in your double double may be a different risk factor altogether.

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