Many of us spent years hearing about the dangers of coffee. It would stunt our growth (wrong); it would sober us up after a night of alcohol-drenched carousing (not just wrong, but potentially dangerous); and, of course, coffee was bad for the heart. That last one is just as false as the others – and current research shows why.
Researchers are finding that caffeine consumption actually lowers the risk of a number of disorders, such as heart disease, stroke, and Type II diabetes. In a new study, German researchers found that caffeine benefits our mitochondria (the miniscule organelles in our cells that are responsible for energy production. Problems with mitochondria create big problems with our cellular function and increase our vulnerability to disease.) The protective effect was associated with daily caffeine consumption equal to 4 cups of coffee––far less than the hyperactive guy (the one with the 27-ounce mug) at the desk next to yours probably chugs down every day.
The researchers showed that the heart’s major cell types contain a protein called P27, which protects heart muscle cells from dying and prompts the repair of heart muscle fibers after a heart attack. Caffeine, it turns out, prompts the movement of P27 into the mitochondria and sets off this cascade of benefits. Here’s a link to an article that explains things in more detail:
Of course, coffee is not the only thing that contains caffeine––but caffeine isn’t the only reason our hearts love coffee, either. Coffee is actually one of our main dietary sources of a class of antioxidants called polyphenols, which repair cellular damage and tamp down inflammation; both of those functions are very good news indeed for the cardiovascular system.
In other words, coffee is basically a dietary supplement! And it’s a whole lot tastier than vitamin pills, too.
Of course, moderation, as always, is key: Don’t chug down gallons of coffee unless you want to end up with an overly-acidic stomach and a temporarily elevated heart rate. But if you have a reasonable love affair with coffee going, feel free to take it to heart.
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