8 February 2000

Is Coffee An Essential Bodily Fluid Or Could It Be Bad For You?

by Kate Melville

In San Francisco coffee is king - there are probably more coffee outlets per capita than in any other city on earth, and locals seem to regard it almost as an essential bodily fluid.

Well San Franciscans and many other heavy caffeine consumers might be in for a shock as a new report says that coffee may be bad for the cardiovascular system.

The new research from the Agricultural University of Wageningen in The Netherlands scrutinised the impact of unfiltered coffee on the levels of homocysteine in the blood. People with high levels of homocysteine are at greater risk heart disease and stroke. Unfiltered coffee was chosen as it contains diterpenes, substances known to raise homocysteine levels (filtering coffee removes diterpenes).

During the project, 64 volunteers each had to consume six large cups of unfiltered coffee or another beverage in a crossover design, each day for two weeks. At the beginning all the volunteers had normal homocysteine levels but during the tests, both their serum cholesterol concentrations and homocysteine levels increased by 10%. The researchers believe that a 10% increase in homocysteine equals a 10% increased risk of heart attack and/or stroke.

So while heavy coffee consumption might be OK for many people, those with cardiovascular problems should probably find a new beverage.