February 2, 1997 in Features

Coffee Boosts Amino Acid Linked To Heart Disease, Stroke

Sally Squires The Washington Post

Drinking coffee raises blood levels of a substance linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, reports a team of Norwegian researchers.

Studies have had mixed results in looking for a link between coffee and heart disease. Intrigued by the inconsistency, Ottar Nygard and his colleagues at Norway’s Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen examined the effects of coffee consumption in more than 16,000 adults. Ninety percent of the participants drank coffee daily.

Nygard and his team found that coffee not only raised levels of blood cholesterol but also significantly increased homocysteine. High blood levels of this amino acid, a building block of protein, have been linked to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Elevated levels of homocysteine have also been associated with congenital malformations, miscarriages and low weight of babies at birth.

Reporting in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nygard and his colleagues noted a strong link between coffee consumption and homocysteine levels. The heaviest coffee drinkers had the highest homocysteine levels, while those who drank decaf or abstained from coffee had the lowest levels.

Cigarette smoking also independently increased homocysteine levels, the study found, while taking vitamin supplements, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and drinking tea were linked with lower levels of homocysteine.

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