Inflammation is your body's normal response to infection or injury. But low-level inflammation is also thought to contribute to heart disease. Some research has linked coffee-drinking and heart disease; a group of Greek researchers looked at whether coffee encourages inflammation.
What the researchers wanted to know: Does drinking more coffee increase inflammation in the body?
What they did: This is part of the ATTICA study, named for the region around Athens, Greece, where the study is being carried out. About 3,000 healthy people took part in the study of health and nutrition. Each person answered a questionnaire about food, including how much coffee they drink each day, and each had a blood sample taken. The researchers were looking for levels of several chemicals involved in inflammation, including C-reactive protein and interleukin 6.
What they found: Compared with people who didn't drink coffee, those who drank more than 200 milliliters of coffee a day (about one cup) had significantly higher levels of four of the five measures of inflammation: C-reactive protein, interleukin 6, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and amyloid A. White blood cell count was not elevated in people who drank coffee. People who drank coffee also had higher total cholesterol.
What the study means to you: It appears that coffee may increase levels of these chemicals that have been linked with heart disease. No one knows how these relationships work, or whether cutting out coffee would decrease your risk for heart disease.
Caveats: The researchers didn't prove that drinking coffee caused the levels of inflammation markers to go upthey simply showed an association, which could be caused by something else. Also, the blood sample was taken only once, and chemicals could vary a lot. And, finally, these people were in Greece, so they may have a different diet from yours.
Find out more: Caffeine from the National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus (www.nlm.nih.gov)
Read the article: Zampelas, A., et al. "Associations Between Coffee Consumption and Inflammatory Markers in Healthy Persons: The ATTICA Study." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. October 2004, Vol. 80, pp. 862-867.
Abstract online: www.ajcn.org