Friday, October 22, 2004

Coffee mourning

'One cup of coffee a day "risky"' says BBC News, reporting on research linking coffee consumption with heart disease. University of Athens and Harokopio University researchers found drinking more than one cup increased the chances of cardiovascular inflammation.

Subjects who drank 200ml of coffee a day had raised levels of white blood cells and proteins associated with cardiovascular inflammation. 'Our results show that coffee drinkers are at higher risk of cardiovascular inflammation and what we need now is clinical trials into this', said the report's co-author, Professor Antonis Zampelas. 'I would not go as far to say people should stop drinking coffee, but I personally have cut down the amount I drink.'

Even the researchers admit that these findings are very preliminary, and the most they can say is that more research is needed.

The increases in protein and white blood cells are not particularly high, and there is nothing in this report that actually measures illness. The only measures are of proteins that are related to inflammation. But whether there actually is inflammation, and whether this inflammation causes disease, is unknown.

In fact, given the weakness of the study, it should be surprising that it has received so much coverage, with headlines like 'Danger lurks in just one coffee'. But coffee has become an integral part of daily life as a pick-me-up, and there is a widespread prejudice that anything so enjoyable and useful must inevitably have a terrible downside - despite a lack of evidence to back this up.

The only thing about coffee that should keep us awake at night is the caffeine, not an unproven link to heart disease.

One cup of coffee a day 'risky', BBC News, 20 October 2004

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