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Boiled, Greek Coffee May Stave Off Heart Disease

Mar 21, 2013 12:03 PM EDT
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The people of the Greek island Ikaria have long been the subject of wonder, living on average 10 years longer than the rest of Western Europe and longer than anywhere else in the world.

And while some say it's the wine - pure and preservative-free - a new look at the island by researchers suggests the magic is in the java.

Circulated in the SAGE journal Vascular Medicine, a recent study examines the link between the islanders' coffee-drinking habits and the functioning of their endothelium - the layer of cells lining blood vessels. Researchers chose this focus due to the association between poor endothelial functioning and heart disease.

In all, the study looked at 71 men and 71 women between the ages of 66 and 91, using surveys regarding the subjects' coffee consumption along with health checks including, but not limited to, monitoring blood pressure and endothelial function.

In all, the researchers found a direct correlation between the amount of boiled Greek coffee consumed and the individual's flow-mediated dilation. In other words, the more they drank, the healthier their vessel walls. This trend did not exist as far as other types of coffee were concerned.

The effect of other types of coffee on heart health remains controversial and highly debated. Gerasimos Siasos, the researcher who oversaw the project, acknowledges this in his study.

"Coffee has been identified as a major source of antioxidants," Siasos states, "but on the other hand it is supposed to have adverse effects on blood cholesterol and homocysteine levels and hypertension."

Siasos further points out that similar studies on the matter have yielded very different results.

"However," he writes, "data from epidemiological studies concerning the association of coffee consumption with cardiovascular disease risk are conflicting. Some studies have shown a positive association while other studies report no relationship or even a negative association."

Ultimately, Siasos openly acknowledges his study's limitations - the fact that only 142 individuals were surveyed, for example - and that more advanced studies are urgently needed.

"Importantly, given the widespread use of coffee beverages across the world and the fact that even small health effects of coffee could have a large impact on public health," Siasos states, "further studies are needed to document the exact beneficial mechanisms of coffee in vascular integrity.

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