Student - March 13, 2008

Coffee drinkers’ arteries harden less quickly

Coffee drinking is healthy for women, researchers in Wageningen and Rotterdam have discovered. Women who drink four cups of coffee a day have sixty percent less chance of developing serious arteriosclerosis than women who drink less or no coffee.

A few decades ago scientists thought that coffee was bad for your heart and circulatory system, but recent studies have put paid to this idea. To better understand the effects of coffee the research team led by Dr Marianne Geleijnse, of the Human Nutrition department at Wageningen University and Erasmus Medical Center, gathered data on sixteen hundred people over sixty-five.

The men in the study who drank coffee showed no significant increase in the risk of artery hardening, the researchers discovered. And among the women, coffee drinking even led to a reduction in the chance of developing arteriosclerosis. The protective effect was greatest among the women who drank four cups of coffee a day.

The scientists do not yet know how coffee protects against serious hardening of the arteries. One theory that has been circulating for a while is that coffee contains minerals that reduce blood pressure such as potassium and magnesium, or polyphenols. The researchers have also suggested another possible explanation. ‘If coffee has an effect in women and not in men, then it might be an oestrogen-related mechanism at work,’ they speculate in their article. ‘Coffee is an important source of phytoestrogens.’

The researchers are considering isoflavones such as daidzein, genistein and formononetin, a group of compounds found in soya. Older Dutch women eat little soya, but do drink coffee often. Coffee contains lower concentrations of phytoestrogens than soya.

The research results will be published this month in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis & Vascular Biology.

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