We love to hear it.
Some freshly brewed, piping hot research, published in the journal European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, brings excellent news to coffee lovers everywhere: Drinking two to three cups of coffee a day—including ground, instant, and even decaf coffee—was associated with “significant reductions in incident cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure and ischaemic stroke) and mortality,” compared with avoiding coffee altogether. The study also concluded that both ground coffee and instant coffee, but not decaffeinated coffee, were associated with reduced risk of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
In the U.S. alone, coffee consumption has never been higher. According to The Spring 2022 National Coffee Data Trends report from the National Coffee Association, up to 66 percent of Americans now drink coffee each day—a record high. Given the popularity of—and, if we’re being honest, dependency on—coffee around the world, finding a definitive answer to the question, “is coffee healthy?” has been an ongoing quest for a long time. It makes sense that health specialists and the general public would want to know whether this seemingly non-negotiable daily habit is safe, especially in relation to heart health and mortality risk.
The general consensus of late seems to be that, yes, moderate, regular coffee consumption (about two cups per day) is “either essentially benign or mildly beneficial,” as one 2016 comprehensive study on the health pros and cons of coffee put it. Modest coffee intake has been correlationally linked to several health benefits, from decreased dementia and Alzheimer's disease risk in later life to lower risk of stroke in women. Meanwhile, a 2019 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that those who drank six or more cups of caffeinated coffee a day were 22 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, corroborating the logical conclusion that the effects of coffee, especially the caffeine in coffee, can have diminishing returns if guzzled in excess.
Historically, medical specialists have erred on the side of caution and recommended that those with cardiovascular disease limit or stop drinking coffee. “Because coffee can quicken heart rate, some people worry that drinking it could trigger or worsen certain heart issues. This is where general medical advice to stop drinking coffee may come from,” the study’s lead author, Peter M. Kistler, M.D., PhD, professor of medicine at the University of Melbourne and Monash University and head of arrhythmia research at the Alfred Hospital and Baker Heart Institute in Melbourne, Australia, says in a press release by the American College of Cardiology. “We found coffee drinking had either a neutral effect—meaning that it did no harm—or was associated with benefits to heart health.” Not only that, but these positive health outcomes seem to hold true for those with and without cardiovascular disease, the ACC noted.
For the study, 449,563 participants were surveyed on their daily coffee intake (the number of cups and preferred type—ground, instant, and decaf), then grouped into categories based on their answers (a no coffee group, less than one cup group, one cup group, two to three cups group, four to five cups group, and more than five cups per day group). After adjusting for variables like age, sex, sleep disorders, diabetes, and blood pressure, the researchers used medical records to compare the coffee-drinkers’ vs. the non-coffee-drinkers’ incidence of arrhythmias, cardiovascular disease, and death over the course of 12 and a half years. They found a correlation between drinking any type of coffee and both longer life and heart disease, with the greatest risk reduction seen with two to three cups per day.
Dr. Kistler has posited that, while caffeine may be the most familiar coffee compound, the drink contains over a hundred biologically active components, and “it is likely that the non-caffeinated compounds [in coffee] were responsible for the positive relationships observed between coffee drinking, cardiovascular disease, and survival.”
Dr. Kistler and his team’s study offers some validating evidence that a daily, mild-to-moderate java habit—whether it’s decaf or caffeinated, instant or ground drip—is not only harmless, but can actually be enjoyed as “part of a healthy lifestyle,” especially with respect to preventing heart diseases and promoting longevity. Just make sure you’re not sipping too close to bedtime!