Heart Health Gets a Jolt from a Cup of Joe
Go ahead: Have that second cup of java.
Research has found that coffee offers a long list of potential health benefits, including possibly reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson's disease, cirrhosis of the liver and even Alzheimer's.
Why? The answer may lie in the army of antioxidants inside.
"Many people do not realize that coffee is the largest source of antioxidants in their diet," said Dr. Donald Hensrud, chair of preventive, occupational and aerospace medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
The ResearchNumerous studies have shown that coffee is good for the heart. The Iowa Women's Health Study, an ongoing study as of May 2011, followed 27,000 women from age 55 to 69. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found in that study that women who drink one to three cups of coffee a day reduce their risk of heart disease by 24 percent compared with those who abstain from drinking coffee.
In a study conducted at Spain's Autonomous University of Madrid, researchers tracked 129,000 men and women over 20 years and found that study participants who consumed several cups of coffee a day were less likely to die of heart disease than those who drank none. Among women taking part in the study, those who drank four to five cups a day were 34 percent less likely to die of heart disease than those women who drank no coffee. Men who drank five cups were 44 percent less likely to die of heart disease than men who drank no coffee.
Of apparent wider significance, however, was an overarching decrease in the mortality rate of the coffee-drinking participants.
According to an article published by NewScientist.com, the researchers noted that the same group of coffee-drinking women experienced 26 percent fewer deaths from any cause during the period of the study and that among the same group of coffee-drinking men there were 35 percent fewer deaths from any cause.
Reports of the study's conclusions appeared during the summer of 2008. At that time, Esther Lopez-Garcia, an epidemiologist at Autonomous University and the leader of the study, cautioned against acting on the findings until additional research was conducted.
Researchers are still trying to determine exactly why coffee might be beneficial, but it appears that antioxidants may block inflammation and limit cell damage, both of which are associated with cardiovascular disease, noted Hensrud.
The antioxidants in coffee are known as polyphenols and are also found in fruits, vegetables, and chocolate. A 2005 study found that Americans get far more antioxidants from coffee than any other source.
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