Researchers Figure Out Why Coffee Is Good For The Heart

Researchers Figure Out Why Coffee Is Good For The Heart

In an encouraging development in the coffee-may-be-good-for-us field, researchers have discovered at least part of why coffee appears to be beneficial for the heart. In recent years, coffee has moved off the “avoid” list and onto the “drink in moderation” list, as it seems to confer health benefits ranging from brain to metabolic to anticancer to cardiac. The new study, from Heinrich-Heine-University and the IUF-Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine in Germany, finds that coffee may be beneficial in part because caffeine sets off a cascade of events in heart cells, starting with their energy stores, mitochondria, and ending with protection of both healthy and unhealthy hearts.

The findings were published in the journal PLOS Biology.

The team focused on a protein called p27, which is known among other things to influence the cell cycle. The team found that caffeine triggered the movement of p27 into the mitochondria of heart cells in mice, and in particular, the migration of the heart’s endothelial cells, which line the blood vessels. How well the endothelial cells were able to migrate, they found, relied strongly on the presence of p27, which again is bolstered by caffeine. 

The protein also had a couple of other cardiovascular benefits: It protected heart muscle cells from dying after heart attack was induced in some of the mice. And it triggered one type of cells, fibroblasts, to differentiate into cells containing contractile fiber, essential for good heart function. 

"Our results indicate a new mode of action for caffeine," said study author Judith Haendeler, "one that promotes protection and repair of heart muscle through the action of mitochondrial p27.”

Interestingly, the optimum dose for caffeine was the equivalent of about four cups of coffee per day, which other studies have suggested as well. When this amount was given to elderly mice, their cardiovascular system functioned more like younger mice. Caffeine administration also improved the heart health of pre-diabetic and obese mice.

The team suggests that p27 is likely the reason why caffeine administration can help after heart attack, and that caffeine may even be protective for people at higher risk for heart disease. This will no doubt be music to some people’s ears.

“These results should lead to better strategies for protecting heart muscle from damage,” said Haendeler, “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.”

As mentioned, a growing number of studies has found coffee linked to heart health, among numerous other benefits. Last year, one found that each additional cup of coffee a person drank per day was linked to a reduced risk for both heart attack and stroke. A study a few years ago found coffee up to six cups a day appeared to have benefits, including reduced mortality from multiple causes, including heart attack.

Haendeler, who told Scientific American that she drinks six cups a day herself, also pointed out that the results shouldn't be taken to mean that one can drink coffee and forsake all the other tenets of good health. But for those of us who deeply enjoy our daily indulgence, the new results, along with many others, suggest that we can continue doing so without a side of guilt.

 

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2018/06/22/researchers-figure-out-why-coffee-is-good-for-the-heart/#45f72b4e56b7

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