Top cardiologist gives verdict on chocolate, coffee and wine

As editor of the European Heart Journal for more than a decade, Prof Thomas Lüscher led a team that sifted through 3,200 manuscripts from scientists and doctors every year. Only a fraction – those deemed “truly novel” and backed up with “solid data” – would be selected for publication.

After stepping down from his role in charge of the world’s top cardiovascular medicine journal, Lüscher has given his verdict on one of the most frequently asked heart health research questions: are wine, chocolate and coffee good or bad for you?

…Lüscher, a consultant cardiologist and director of research, education and development at the Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals, says the answer is “more complex than a simple yes or no”…Lüscher also cautions that the evidence should be considered “seriously”, given the large numbers of people worldwide that regularly enjoy a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate. There are pros and cons to each of them, he suggests, and these can differ depending on how often and how much of each is consumed, as well as by whom.

“Are wine, chocolate, coffee forbidden joys? Well, wine is truly a joy but at best neutral when consumed in moderation. Chocolate is a joy for our CV [cardiovascular] system, if consumed in dark, bitter form. And coffee? It wakes us up, less so if you drink it regularly, and at that dose of up to four cups a day, might even be protective.”

RTFA. Keep on searching and reading if you think you need to. If you’re like me, you’ve already addressed this question a number of times. My experience has the analysis definitely coming down on the side of coffee and chocolate. Wine, not so much or often.

Over time – and I’ve already used up a whole bunch of that – I find I rarely consume anything alcoholic anymore. No special reason. Tastes change. My wife’s coffee is a delight. Strong and dark, I have four cups in the morning – consistently. I think of it as a minimum; but, rarely exceed that number. Dark, unsweetened chocolate is part of my nutrition set, weekly, if not, daily.

Lower Risk of Stroke and Dementia?  Coffee and tea are on the OK list.


Christopher Furlong/Getty

New research out this week suggests that a tea or coffee habit in your later years could help your brain stay in tip-top shape. The study found that healthy older adults in the UK who regularly drank coffee and/or tea were less likely to develop stroke and dementia over an 11-year period than those who drank neither. Though these findings can’t confirm a cause-and-effect link, they are the latest to indicate that these brewed drinks have some health benefits…

While tea has long been considered a healthy beverage, coffee has been more controversial. Lately, however, it’s become clear that coffee isn’t the devil’s drink and that it may even do some good. Recent studies have suggested that regular coffee consumption is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and early death in general…Other studies have found a relationship between tea and coffee consumption and lower stroke/dementia risk. But the authors say theirs is one of the first to account for those who regularly drink both tea and coffee, as opposed to one or the other.

“Our findings suggested that moderate consumption of coffee and tea separately or in combination were associated with lower risk of stroke and dementia,” they wrote.

A perfectly accurate description of part of the lifestyle in our household. We’ve examined the pros and cons enough times to feel secure in our decision to stick with regular consumption of both tea and coffee. No sugar added BTW.

Coffee linked to DNA integrity

A controlled randomized study conducted on 100 healthy Europeans just vindicated you and your coffee obsession. As far as DNA integrity is concerned coffee is actually more beneficial than water

The coffee group exhibited much less DNA strand breakage than the control group by the end of the 4-week span…

As it stands – all coffee is rich with anti-oxidants, a compound that enables cells to better repair themselves in the wake of the damage done by free radicals. Free radicals, birthed by sunlight, oxygen, and pollution, deteriorate the collagen fibers in the skin. The microbial properties in coffee help ward off germs in the skin. Its caffeic acid boosts collagen levels which in turn reduces the aging process…The antioxidants found in coffee are also instrumental in fighting diseases, preventing cavities, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver and various forms of cancer.

Take a minute to click through to the original – and you’ll discover even more great reasons to drink coffee. Good old dark roast used in most of this research. Delicioso!

Life without coffee?

“What would life be without coffee?” King Louis XV of France is said to have asked. “But, then, what is life even with coffee?” he added. Truer, or more apt, words for the present moment were never spoken, now usable as a kind of daily catechism. At a time when coffee remains one of the few things that the anxious sleeper can look forward to in the morning….giving as it does at least an illusion of recharge and a fresh start, the charge has invariably slipped away by the time the latest grim briefing comes…

This change is real, and is reflected in the numbers. As Jonathan Morris documents in his recent book, “Coffee: A Global History”, epicurean coffeehouses in the United States numbered in the hundreds in 1989, and in the tens of thousands by 2013. A lot of that is Starbucks, but not all. Roasters in Italy went from exporting twelve million kilograms of espresso in 1988 to more than a hundred and seventy million in 2015. Not surprisingly, the growth of a coffee culture has been trailed, and sometimes advanced, by a coffee literature, which arrived in predictable waves, each reflecting a thriving genre. First, we got a fan’s literature—“the little bean that changed the world”—with histories of coffee consumption and appreciations of coffee preparations. (The language of wine appreciation was adapted to coffee, especially a fixation on terroir—single origins, single estates, even micro lots.) Then came the gonzo, adventurer approach: the obsessive who gives up normal life to pursue coffee’s mysteries. And, finally, a moralizing literature that rehearsed a familiar lecture on the hidden cost of the addiction…

This is worth reading if you haven’t any problem with the worst of several styles of writing loved by The New Yorker. Never use 8 words in a sentence when you can use 38 (or more). See what I just did. It happens almost every paragraph.

I have been guilty of every fault I find in the article…including obscurant conclusions. But, RTFA. It is well recommended. And in The New Yorker, after all.

Everyone’s drug of choice

Four hundred years ago, Coffea arabica, a tropical shrub bearing glossy green leaves and bright-red berries, was virtually unknown outside of the Arab world and the corner of Ethiopia where it had been discovered in the ninth century—by a goatherd who, legend has it, noticed that his animals would get frisky and stay up all night after nibbling its berries. In the years since…we have given it more than 27 million acres of new habitat all around the world, assigned 25 million farming families to its care and feeding, and bid up its price until it became one of the most valuable globally traded crops…

Coffee owes its global ascendancy to a fortuitous evolutionary accident: The chemical compound that the plant makes to defend itself against insects happens to alter human consciousness in ways we find desirable, making us more energetic and industrious—and notably better workers. That chemical of course is caffeine, which is now the world’s most popular psychoactive drug, used daily by 80 percent of humanity. (It is the only such drug we routinely give to our children, in the form of soda.) Along with the tea plant, which produces the same compound in its leaves, coffee has helped create exactly the kind of world that coffee needs to thrive: a world driven by consumer capitalism, ringed by global trade, and dominated by a species that can now barely get out of bed without its help.

I love it.

Caffeine in your bloodstream ain’t all you might worry about


Steven Ward, OSU

❝ Scientists at Oregon State University may have proven how much people love coffee, tea, chocolate, soda and energy drinks as they validated their new method for studying how different drugs interact in the body.

In conducting mass spectrometry research, Richard van Breemen and Luying Chen worked with various biomedical suppliers to purchase 18 batches of supposedly pure human blood serum pooled from multiple donors…All 18 batches tested positive for caffeine. Also, in many of the samples the researchers found traces of cough medicine and an anti-anxiety drug. The findings point to the potential for contaminated blood transfusions, and also suggest that blood used in research isn’t necessarily pure.

❝ “From a ‘contamination’ standpoint, caffeine is not a big worry for patients, though it may be a commentary on current society,” said Chen, a Ph.D. student. “But the other drugs being in there could be an issue for patients, as well as posing a problem for those of us doing this type of research because it’s hard to get clean blood samples.”

Article worth reading, folks.

I keep an eye on nutrition and health studies – and being a lifelong coffee drinker that’s one of the substances I track. I even quit drinking coffee for a few years after a scary preliminary study – eventually disproven – from a solid medical source rolled out too many threats to rationalize.

How many cups of coffee help your heart?

❝ Despite the fact that having too many morning cold brews makes you feel like your heart will explode, a study from PLOS Biology released Thursday shows that there’s an optimum amount of coffee you can drink to maintain a healthy heart. “We’ve disproved what doctors have told your grandma: Don’t drink coffee if you have a heart problem,” study co-authors Joachim Altschmied, Ph.D. and Judith Haendeler, Ph.D., tell Inverse.

❝ Altschmied and Haendeler, both University of Dusseldorf biologists, explain that there is extensive previous research demonstrating the health effects of caffeine at a “physiologically relevant amount” — namely, four cups. “It’s known that four cups or more of coffee lowers the risk for heart attack, stroke,, and diabetes,” says Altschmied. Now, they know the reason why this happens: Caffeine can “push” a protein called p27 into the mitochondria, or energy powerhouses, of heart cells. This, in turn, can help those heart cells function more efficiently. In their experiments, Altschmied and Haendeler found this process had a time-machine effect: The mitochondria in caffeinated old rats performed as efficiently as mitochondria in the healthy younger rats.

The team are optimistic that this mechanism could have implications for people recovering from heart attacks, but they are adamant that this research is still in its infancy. They’re also sure that there are some patients who shouldn’t be drinking caffeine to improve heart health…It’s important not to overdo it,” Altschmied adds.

But if you can handle four or more cups of coffee a day, this research seems to indicate that you’re doing your heart a solid favor.

Over decades, I’ve taken to heart [pun intended] serious research that said I should stop drinking coffee – then, returned to the habit a few months or even years later when subsequent research corrected errors in the earlier studies.

Now, it seems we’re moving forward, again. Recommending coffee and a wee bit of caffeine as a useful substance for heart health. OK by me.

Yes – more research declares a bit of caffeine is okey-dokey

❝ Many clinicians advise patients with atrial or ventricular arrhythmias to avoid caffeinated beverages, but recent research has shown that coffee and tea are safe and can reduce the frequency of arrhythmias…

Arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, cause the heart to beat too fast, slow or unevenly. While some arrhythmias may be harmless or even go unnoticed in patients, others can increase risk for sudden cardiac arrest. Atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most common heart rhythm disorder, causes the heart to beat rapidly and skip beats, and if left untreated, can cause strokes.

A single cup of coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine and acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system. Once in the body, caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine, a chemical that can facilitate AFib…

❝ “Caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea may have long term anti-arrhythmic properties mediated by antioxidant effects and antagonism of adenosine,” Dr. Peter Kistler said. “In numerous population-based studies, patients who regularly consume coffee and tea at moderate levels have a lower lifetime risk of developing heart rhythm problems and possibly improved survival.”

One of those cultural questions I try to stay up-to-date with. Over the past 40 years, a bit of caffeine consumption seems to be staying well ahead of the abstinence crowd.