We know morning coffee helps awaken our brains, but new science suggests coffee may also “awaken” our bodies. A new study indicates moderate amounts of coffee may help the function of our small blood vessels.
The study was led by Masato Tsutsui, a cardiologist in the pharmacology department at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan. Tsutsui’s cohort took 27 healthy, non-coffee drinking adults between the ages of 27 and 30. Each participant in the study drank either a small cup of regular or decaffeinated coffee. Shortly thereafter, the researchers measured something called reactive hyperemia in the left index fingers of the subjects. In layman’s terms, reactive hyperemia is an increase in blood flow in response to a particular stimulus, in this case coffee. Following a period of two days, the experiment was repeated, except swapping those who drank decaf and those who drank regular.
The results showed those drinking caffeinated coffee showed a 30 percent increase in vascular function when compared to those drinking decaf. Caffeinated coffee also slightly raised heart rate compared to decaf. For both regular and decaf, the subjects’ blood pressure remained constant.
These findings suggest that small amounts of caffeinated coffee can have a positive impact on a person’s vascular health. However, we know drinking more than a moderate amount of coffee—more than 4 coffee-house drinks a day—can cause long term cardiovascular complications. The study also uses a small sample size. Any definitive finding would require a larger study. It should also be noted Tsutsui’s study was funded by the All Japan Coffee Association.
Despite its shortfalls, this study echoes the trend in current science. Drinking two or three cups of coffee a day has been shown to reduce the risks of heart disease and mitigate cardiovascular failure.