The health benefits of coffee may be regularly disputed, but a new study has linked caffeine consumption with improved heart health.
In fact, consuming four cups of coffee a day could help protect cardiovascular cells from damage and also help them to repair.
In a study published in PLOS Biology, researchers from Heinrich-Heine-University and the IUF-Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine in Düsseldorf, Germany, found that caffeine may improve the health of the cells which line the arteries and veins, thus strengthening their ability to recover from damage.
The researchers suggest drinking coffee - or other caffeinated beverages - could be particularly beneficial for the elderly, who are more at risk of heart problems than younger people.
According to the study, caffeine induces the movement of a protein called p27 into mitochondria which ultimately leads to protecting heart muscle cells from cell death and helps repair heart muscle.
The study was conducted on mice, but the researchers concluded that drinking four cups of coffee was optimum in humans.
In the experiment, caffeine was protective against heart damage in pre-diabetic, obese mice, and in aged mice.
“Our results indicate a new mode of action for caffeine, one that promotes protection and repair of heart muscle through the action of mitochondrial p27,” said study author Professor Judith Haendeler.
“These results should lead to better strategies for protecting heart muscle from damage, including consideration of coffee consumption or caffeine as an additional dietary factor in the elderly population.
“Furthermore, enhancing mitochondrial p27 could serve as a potential therapeutic strategy not only in cardiovascular diseases but also in improving healthspan.”
Commenting on the research, Professor Tim Chico, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist, University of Sheffield, said:
“These researchers have discovered that a protein called p27 is important for recovery after heart attack in mice, and that p27 function is boosted by caffeine. These are very interesting findings but need to be confirmed in clinical trials before we can tell whether caffeine is truly helpful after a heart attack in humans.
“There is already some evidence suggesting coffee might protect against some diseases, which if true could be due to the effect of caffeine on p27.
“I do not think people need to drink more coffee in response to this study, but that people who already drink coffee can be reassured that it might have health benefits (as long as they don’t use it to wash down an enormous muffin, cake, or doughnut).”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies