People drinking high levels of coffee are less likely to develop clogged arteries, which can lead to a heart attack

People who drink between three and five cups of coffee a day could be reducing their risk of a heart attack, as they are less likely to develop clogged arteries, according to a new study.

Though there has been much debate around effects of excessive coffee drinking on cardiovascular health, the study found that coffee consumption could be “inversely associated” with the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Researchers led by the Kangbuck Samsung Hospital in Seoul, South Korea, focused on the association between coffee and coronary artery calcium (CAC), which is an early indicator of the potentially serious condition coronary atherosclerosis. The condition sees arteries become clogged up by fatty substances called plaques or atheroma. It can cause a heart attack or a stroke when the arteries become hardened or narrowed, leading to blood clots, which can then trigger the potentially deadly attacks.

Researchers studied a group of more than 25,000 Korean men and women with no signs of heart disease and an average age of 41.

Their coffee consumption was categorised as none, less than one cup a day, one to three cups a day, three to five cups per day and five or more per day.

They found the prevalence of detectable CAC was 13.4% amongst the whole group while the average amount of coffee drunk was 1.8 cups per day.

Their findings showed the calcium ratios were 0.77 for people who had less than one cup per day, 0.66 for those having one to three cups every day, 0.59 for those consuming three to five cups per day, and 0.81 for people having at least five cups or more every day compared with non-coffee drinkers.

The U-shaped findings meant that those who drank one to three coffees a day had the second least prevalence of arteries that had clogged up.

The British Heart Foundation said 'more research' is needed to confirm the findings

The findings were published in the online journal Heart, where the authors stated: “Our study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that coffee consumption might be inversely associated with cardiovascular disease risk.

“Further research is warranted to confirm our finding and establish the biological basis of coffee’s potential preventative effects on coronary artery disease.”

The research appears to support the findings of a 2012 set of studies, which the NHS said suggested that, “compared to no coffee consumption, four to five servings of coffee a day was associated with an 11 per cent lower risk (of heart failure),” while “drinking excessive amounts of coffee had no benefit – and is likely to give you the jitters,” though the health service said information should be viewed with caution.

In response to the current study, Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “While this study does highlight a potential link between coffee consumption and lower risk of developing clogged arteries, more research is needed to confirm these findings and understand what the reason is for the association.

”We need to take care when generalising these results because it is based on the South Korean population, who have a different diet and lifestyle."

Additional reporting by PA