For years, physicians have recommended that patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) avoid certain foods and beverages, especially those that are high in cholesterol, salt, fat, and caffeine. But the few studies that have looked at the link between drinking coffee and death have had conflicting results.

An international team of researchers, who published their results in the July 2011 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, set out to assess the association between filtered caffeinated coffee consumption and all-cause and CVD mortality. The authors assessed follow-up data over a 24-year period (1980-2004) in women with CVD from the Nurses’ Health Study. In 1980, coffee consumption was assessed in 11,697 women with a food-frequency questionnaire (FFQ). The FFQ was repeated every 2 to 4 years, with follow-up ending in 2004.

Of 1,159 deaths observed among the study participants, 579 were due to CVD, according to the analysis. Here were the relative risks (RR) of all-cause mortality across categories of cumulative coffee consumption:

Coffee ConsumptionRR of All-Cause Mortality
<1 cup (240 mL or 8 oz) per month1.00
1 cup per month to 4 cups per week1.04
5-7 cups per week1.13
2-3 cups per day1.01
≥4 cups per day1.18

The relative risks of CVD mortality across the same categories of coffee intake were:

Coffee ConsumptionRR of CVD Mortality
<1 cup (240 mL or 8 oz) per month1.00
1 cup per month to 4 cups per week0.99
5-7 cups per week1.03
2-3 cups per day0.97
≥4 cups per day1.25

No association was seen between caffeine consumption and both total and CVD-related mortality.

View study abstract

Physician’s Weekly wants to know…

  • Based on these results, would you suggest to your female patients with CVD that it is safe for them to drink coffee? What about other caffeinated beverages? Why or why not?
  • Do you think similar results would be found among men? If so, would you suggest to your male patients with CVD that it is safe for them to drink coffee and other caffeinated beverages?