Is Coffee the New Red Wine for Heart Health?
A growing body of research suggests that coffee’s artery-protective effect is due to powerful polyphenols found in both roasted and unroasted (green) coffee beans. These disease-fighting compounds, which include ferulic and caffeic acids, promote heart health in a similar fashion to red wine polyphenols. Like resveratrol, the well-known artery-friendly compound in red wine, coffee polyphenols can boost cholesterol removal (efflux) from the arterial wall. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23041272).
Cholesterol Efflux Reduces Arterial Plaque Buildup
Macrophages, scavenger-like white blood cells, play a critical role in the formation of arterial plaque and are the source of the “fatty streaks” seen in atherosclerotic arteries. Fatty streaks can eventually develop into unstable plaque responsible for heart attack and stroke. Interestingly, curcumin supplements have been shown to clear out another type of plaque found in the brain of those at risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Research studies suggest that coffee polyphenols can increase the amount of cholesterol released from macrophages in foam cells, where it is then taken up by HDL lipoproteins and transported to the liver to be metabolized. This process, known as “reverse cholesterol transport,” is one reason why people with elevated HDL-cholesterol levels may enjoy a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
A recent study found that the blood of human volunteers was substantially enriched in artery-friendly phenolic acids within 30 minutes of consuming one cup of caffeinated coffee. Investigators found that the “post-coffee serum” of volunteers exhibited significantly increased cholesterol efflux.
This study provides compelling evidence that phenolic acids, with coffee as a delivery mechanism, can increase cholesterol efflux from macrophages in the arterial wall and thereby reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Money-saving health tip: If you are healthy, enjoy drinking coffee, and can safely metabolize caffeine, consider investing in a $200 espresso machine. If you consume just one espresso drink each day, you’ll earn back your investment in less than three months (based on the average price of commercial espresso drinks, which is about $2.45). Here’s a few that are great values.
Caffeinated Coffee Not For Everyone
Researchers caution that although caffeinated coffee may be a healthy beverage for many people, certain individuals could have trouble metabolizing caffeine. They suspect that this may be one reason why studies that have examined the relationship between caffeine consumption and heart disease found an increased risk of hypertension and heart attack only in volunteers with a reduced ability to metabolize the stimulant. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16522833)
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Robert Haas, MS, is a world-renown sports nutrition consultant, NY Times #1-bestselling author, and nutraceutical product developer. He is the CEO of paleopharm.com, a blog devoted to nutraceutical solutions for fitness, weight loss, and healthy aging.