Even Instant and Decaf Coffee May Help Lower Heart Disease Risk, New Research Suggests
From perking up your mood and boosting your brainpower to lowering your risk for diabetes and protecting your liver, the health benefits of coffee are multiple and mounting.
If you don't currently sip on java, there's no need to start a new habit; other drinks like tea and water pack in plenty of wellness advantages, too. Still, if you do brew a cup or two each day—or swing by the coffee shop—a new study provides more evidence that you might be supporting your heart health all the while.
According to a new study published September 27, 2022, in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, drinking two to three cups of coffee daily—instant, ground or even decaf—is associated with lower risk of heart disease and early death among adults aged 40 to 69.
Read on for more details about how the scientists landed at this buzzy finding, and why all varieties of coffee (even Grandma's go-to old-school instant) deliver the same heart-health benefits.
What This Coffee Study Found
Much of the previous research about the health and longevity benefits of coffee includes all coffees as the same general category. Since little data is available about the effects of various types of coffee on the cardiovascular system, scientists at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, designed an observational study to dig into the difference, if any, among the heart-health implications of drinking instant, ground, decaffeinated or caffeinated coffee.
To do so, they rounded up 449,563 participants from the UK Biobank (a large database of medical information for more than half a million residents of the United Kingdom) who were between the ages of 40 and 69 and had no current cardiovascular problems at the onset of the study. The average age was 58 and about 55% of the participant pool identified as female.
The researchers asked each person to self-report the number of cups of coffee they drank each day, and separated the individuals into six categories:
- Zero cups per day
- Less than one cup per day
- One cup per day
- Two to three cups per day
- Four to five cups per day
- More than five cups per day
Then they asked which type they consumed. The results ...
- 44.1%: instant coffee
- 18.4%: ground coffee
- 15.2%: decaffeinated coffee
- 22.4%: didn't drink coffee
Twelve and a half years later, the scientists tapped back into participant health records and studied them for ICD (International Classification of Diseases) codes. These codes, by the way, are essentially a systematic way for medical professionals to record illness and disease information, as well as cause of death.
Adjusting for other factors related to heart health, such as age, gender, body size, blood pressure, alcohol consumption levels, tea intake, smoking status and sleep apnea, the scientists found that those who drank any type of coffee—ground, instant or decaf—tended to have lower risk of death from any cause and from heart disease than their coffee-free peers. A regular intake of two to three cups per day of any kind of coffee was linked with the largest risk reduction. This is a clue that there's something inherent in all coffee beans, beyond the caffeine, that helps deliver the heart- health benefit.
Instant and ground coffees were both associated with a lower risk of arrhythmia (when the heart beats irregularly, too quickly or too slowly), but decaf coffee showed no benefit for this particular condition. Again, two to three cups daily was the sweet spot. The scientists believe that this is the case because of caffeine's relationship with receptors for a specific neurotransmitter (called adenosine) on heart cells, but more research is required to confirm the link.
Earlier studies suggest that about 75% of medical professionals advise patients with heart disease to avoid coffee, perhaps due to caffeine's ability to stimulate the nervous system and potentially increase heart rate. While the overall scientific knowledge base is conflicting, several more recent studies hint that moderate consumption of coffee or tea is A-OK for most people. (As always, consult with your own medical care team before changing any major health habits, medications or supplements for their personalized guidance; especially if you have cardiovascular disease or risk factors for heart disease.)
Keep in mind that this can't be used as a blanket prescription for all humans, and there are some limitations to this study. Coffee consumption data was gathered by self-report, which means that participants could fib or forget how much coffee they drank or of what kind. Plus, consumption can vary daily, as can the varieties of coffee consumed daily. (For instance, one might drink a cup of caffeinated espresso before breakfast, then a cold brew with lunch, followed by a cup of a decaf in the afternoon.) The questionnaire only allowed for choosing one coffee category. They didn't ask anyone if their coffee consumption rates changed from day one to 12 years later, either. And lastly, those ICD codes are notorious for being susceptible to errors and confounding factors. (One recent example: Did they die of heart disease or COVID-19 if the body's response to the virus was worsened by symptoms of heart disease?)
The Bottom Line
According to this new study, drinking two to three daily cups of instant, ground or decaf coffee may lower risk for heart disease and death, while any type of caffeinated coffee could reduce the likelihood of experiencing an arrhythmia.
Additional research is needed in more controlled settings and among a more diverse group of people, but if you enjoy drinking a couple of cups of coffee per day, chances are your heart and lifespan might score a bit of a boost, just like your energy. Beyond heart health, there are several beneficial reasons to drink java, especially if you brew it with a filter and add a sprinkle of anti-inflammatory cinnamon.