Drinking coffee has potentially harmful effects on blood vessels, according to research presented last week at the 22nd World Congress of the European Society of Cardiology.
Researchers from St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, Australia, presented data that link caffeine consumption with deterioration of the elastic properties of the coronary blood vessels. They believe that the findings have important implications for heart function and coronary blood flow.
In the small study, 18 healthy middle-aged volunteers consumed 250 mg of caffeine, the amount found in 2 to 3 small cups of coffee. Caffeine led to an acute 8% increase in pulse wave velocity (a measure of blood vessel elasticity), an effect that lasted for at least three hours. This effect was accompanied by short-term increases in blood pressure.
In a separate study of 15 healthy volunteers, colleagues from the University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, demonstrated for that coffee drinking and caffeine infusion (250 mg) enhance sympathetic nerve activity, leading to a pronounced blood pressure increase in the nine non-habitual coffee drinkers. But they found no blood pressure increase, despite similar sympathetic nerve activation, in the six habitual coffee drinkers. This study suggests that non-habitual, but not habitual coffee drinking, may be associated with increased risk of heart disease.
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