Are you drinking too much coffee? Several studies have debated the risks and benefits of one of consumers’ favorite drinks. While most experts have ruled that coffee can produce health benefits, new findings are showing that there is a level of consumption that goes too far.
According to researchers from the University of South Australia, consumers who drink six or more cups of coffee per day could be at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
“There’s certainly a lot of scientific debate about the pros and cons of coffee, but while it may seem like we’re going over old ground, it’s essential to fully understand how one of the world’s most widely consumed drinks can impact our health,” said researcher Elina Hyppönen.
“In this study, we looked at genetic and phenotypic associations between coffee and intake and plasma lipid profiles -- the cholesterols and fats in your blood -- finding causal evidence that habitual coffee consumption contributes to an adverse lipid profile, which can increase your risk of heart disease,” she said.
Balancing heart health and coffee intake
The researchers analyzed data from more than 362,000 participants involved in the U.K. Biobank to determine how coffee consumption can affect heart health. They looked specifically at how much coffee the participants’ drank and compared that with the cholesterol and fat levels in the participants’ blood, which is often a key indicator of heart disease risk.
The study found that participants were at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease when they consumed large quantities of coffee over an extended period of time. Six cups of coffee per day was determined to be the limit; exceeding that on a daily basis was linked with a severely increased risk of heart disease.
The researchers explained that drinking coffee in excess adds fat and cholesterol into the blood, which can put a lot of stress on the heart and make heart disease more likely. They point specifically to the compound in coffee known as cafestol as the primary risk factor for health concerns.
“Cafestol is mainly present in unfiltered brews, such as French press, Turkish and Greek coffees, but it’s also in espressos, which is the base for most barista-made coffees, including lattes and cappuccinos,” said Hyppönen. “There is no, or very little, cafestol in filtered and instant coffee, so with respect to effects on lipids, those are good coffee choices.”
Drink in moderation
Though coffee is a bright spot in many consumers’ daily routines, the health risks are real -- especially for those who are already at an increased risk of heart disease and drink coffee in excess. The researchers recommend that consumers adopt a moderation mindset since eliminating coffee entirely isn’t necessary; however, limiting intake can be beneficial for long-term health.
“With coffee being close to the heart for many people, it’s always going to be a controversial subject,” Hyppönen said. “Our research shows excess coffee is clearly not good for cardiovascular health, which certainly has implications for those already at risk.
“Of course, unless we know otherwise, the well-worn adage usually fares well -- everything in moderation -- when it comes to health, this is generally good advice,” she concluded.