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Heart trouble.

Heart Trouble

Diseases of the heart have become the most popular afflictin of the elderly and are impinging on the middle-aged as well. Almost 50 percent of deaths are now attributed to heart deficiency. The minute you are diagnosed as having a problem in this area, you will inevitably be told to curtail your consumption of coffee or even to discontinue it entirely. Don't be surprised at this interdiction--coffee has been publicized as a probable or potential cause for a wide variety of ailments. Although it has been exonerated in practically every instance, there is still a widespread belief among physicians: "If coffee isn't unhealthy, it should be."

The industry has been signally deficient in its effort and ability to invalidate this philosophy--so much so that it has spread to the lay public. Tea packers and cola beverage vendors, with almost equal amounts of caffeine in their product, have been less subject to this propaganda. So far they have averted loss of sales due to this superstitious belief.

The belief has been present for several centuries, but has recently been given new emphasis by a number of clinical statistical reports of dubious scientific validity by researchers desirous of personal publicity. Relying on flimsy evidence and seeking a result that would afford maximum media attention, they selected the popular beverage, coffee, as their victim and selected appropriate data to prove their point. Without exception, subsequent, more scientific and impartial study disproved their contentions.

As an example, a typical report publicized and widely disseminated in the lay press in 1986, appeared to establish a firm basis for coffee as a cause for heart disease. The study involved more than 1,000 physicians who graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School in the 40's, 50's and 60's. The doctors had participated in the study for up to 35 years. During this time they have regularly filled out questionnaires about their health, coffee drinking and other dietary habits. Results indicted that drinkers of five or more cups per day had nearly three times the risk of developing coronary heart disease as non-coffee drinkers.

Superficially, the study seemed to overcome scientific flaws responsible for confusion in earlier studies. It was long-term; started with originally healthy people and measured participants smoking habits. On average, smokers drink twice as much coffee as non-smokers. (Any study which associated caffeine and nicotine with increased heart trouble is liable to find such an association, as heavy coffee drinking groups usually include a disproportionate number of smokers. Smokers metabolize caffeine to a greater extent than non-smokers. Accordingly, smokers drink more coffee to achieve the same caffeine effect.)

Serious flaws in this report included failure to take into account stress which may increase risk of heart disease, as people under greater stress often drink more coffee. The study didn't consider exercise, as heavy coffee drinkers usually avoid this physical activity. It didn't consider the total diet, as heavy coffee imbibers eat fewer fruits and vegetables and consume more fats. No account was taken of the strength of the coffee--whether percolated, boiled or instant--or the size of the cup which can vary from five ounces to more than double that, in various households.

Finally, participants in this study seemed very unusual; very few developed heart trouble; and in those that did, cigarettes appeared not to be a risk factor, contrary to everything known about long term effects of tobacco.

As a result, critics determined that the study was far less valid than it had originally appeared and a link between coffee and heart disease had not been established. Data in this report have since been reviewed by several research groups, who have also reviewed dozens of other studies. Their conclusions have been uniformly positive: "that coffee is blameless as a cause of heart disease." The F.D.A. itself is one of the groups that has conducted such a review and concluded: "Evidence does not support a causal role for coffee in heart disease."

Framingham Heart Study retracks original findings

A study reaffirming this lack of a relationship was published in May 1989 by researchers from the original Framingham Heart Study. Based upon data from more than 600 adults observed over a 20 year period, they found no increased risk of coronary heart or other cardiovascular disease among coffee drinkers.

Among the participants were 700 individuals who began the study with some form of heart deficiency. During the study, the researchers tabulated how many experienced a second attack. They then determined whether coffee use was associated with any increased risk of recurrence. There was no correlation, they reported: "We detected no deleterious role for coffee in the recurrence of cardiovascular disease."

Since heart disease is so critical to longevity, the media is constantly bombarding us with bits and pieces of information and misinformation as to how the wrong diet can lead to heart failure. Most people are now convinced that this illness is caused by a diet rich in saturated fats and cholesterol; and if they remove these factors from their diet, they can prevent or postpone heart failure. (Parenthetically it might be noted that coffee has been accused of increasing percentage of cholesterol in the blood stream). So far we have no proof that diet or change in diet can promote or prevent heart difficulties. We have been unable to induce heart failure in laboratory animals by normal or reasonable change in diet.

Too many factors other than diet can effect a healthy heart: age, heredity, stress, inertia, excess stimulants or depressants, etc. In our present state of knowledge, it is impossible to attribute heart stoppage to any single factor. It must be emphasized that normal consumption of up to five cups of coffee per day has no harmful effect on the heart. On the positive side, coffee is a salubruous beverage aiding in clearer vision, clearer thinking and increased productivity. In their ceaseless struggle to maintain or enlarge their fair share of the kidney function, coffee roasters must exert a more positive effort promoting the benefits of the brew, while continuing to battle negative endearments.
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Title Annotation:coffee drinking and health
Author:Lee, Samuel
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:column
Date:Dec 1, 1989
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