A recent headline in the Australian newspaper claimed “A short black a day can keep heart attack at bay”. Is this more good news for coffee lovers, or a case of be careful what you read?
Here’s what the article in question had to say about heart attacks and your daily mug of Joe:
American scientists have unearthed fresh evidence that coffee exerts protective effects against heart failure and stroke.
According to the researchers, for every extra cup of coffee drunk per week, there was a 7% reduction in risk of heart failure and an 8% risk reduction for stroke.
So, is this more good news for coffee lovers, or a case of be careful what you read?
As the researchers explain in the media article:
We don’t know if it’s the coffee, compounds in the coffee or behaviour associated with drinking coffee.
The data comes from observational studies showing an association between coffee consumption, and heart failure and stroke. It does not prove causation. It shows that people who drank more coffee had lower rates of heart failure and stroke, not that drinking more coffee was responsible for reducing this risk.
There may be other reasons why people with heart failure and those who have had a stroke drink less coffee, for example, being on fluid restrictions for medical reasons, or not being able to move independently enough to make a cup of coffee.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid having another cup of coffee. A review of 20 observational studies from 2014 found those who drank the most coffee had longer life expectancies than those who drank the least or no coffee.
Again, these studies showed correlation not causation, but the evidence to suggest coffee is good for you is mounting.
How was the research conducted?
This story came from an abstract of a presentation to the American Heart Association’s 2017 Scientific Sessions on November 14. The researchers used data from more than 12,000 adults in the Framingham Heart Study to look for eating and drinking habits associated with heart disease.
The study used a powerful new statistical approach called random forest machine-learning methods. This uses all the individuals’ data to construct multiple decision trees and work out what the common patterns are when predicting their health outcomes. The researchers said this technique was a bit like the algorithms used in the marketing programs that predict our shopping behaviours.
The researchers confirmed that high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and older age increased the risk of heart disease. They also identified that higher intakes of coffee predicted a lower risk of heart failure and stroke.
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