Purpose of review: This review summarizes and highlights recent advances in current knowledge of the relationship between coffee and caffeine consumption and risk of coronary heart disease. Potential mechanisms and genetic modifiers of this relationship are also discussed.
Recent findings: Studies examining the association between coffee consumption and coronary heart disease have been inconclusive. Coffee is a complex mixture of compounds that may have either beneficial or harmful effects on the cardiovascular system. Randomized controlled trials have confirmed the cholesterol-raising effect of diterpenes present in boiled coffee, which may contribute to the risk of coronary heart disease associated with unfiltered coffee consumption. A recent study examining the relationship between coffee and risk of myocardial infarction incorporated a genetic polymorphism associated with a slower rate of caffeine metabolism and provides strong evidence that caffeine also affects risk of coronary heart disease. Several studies have reported a protective effect of moderate coffee consumption, which suggests that coffee contains other compounds that may be beneficial.
Summary: Diterpenes present in unfiltered coffee and caffeine each appear to increase risk of coronary heart disease. A lower risk of coronary heart disease among moderate coffee drinkers might be due to antioxidants found in coffee.