Coffee may cut stroke risk in women; but its not the caffeine

February 27, 2009

New research from Spain shows that drinking Coffee significantly lowers the risk of developing a life-threatening stroke in women and its not the caffeine. Dr. Esther Lopez-Garcia of the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid and her colleagues found that over the course of more than two decades, women who drank coffee several times a week were actually 1/5th less likely to suffer a stroke than those who drank coffee less than once a month if they were otherwise healthy. Evidence to date suggests that drinking coffee doesn't harm the heart, and may actually protect against type 2 diabetes, Lopez-Garcia and her team note in the March 3 issue of Circulation. But there is little information on how coffee might affect stroke risk, especially in women.  

The researchers looked at 83,076 women participating in the Nurse's Health Study who reported their coffee consumption in 1980 and again every 2 to 4 years thereafter up to 2004. During that time, 2,280 women had strokes. Coffee drinkers were more likely to smoke and to drink alcohol, the researchers found. They found that women who drank two or three cups of coffee daily were 19% less likely to have a stroke than women who drank a cup or less each month. Women who had four or more cups were at 20% lower risk than those who consumed the least coffee. Decaf coffee was also linked to a lower stroke risk, but tea and soft drinks containing caffeine were not, showing that there is something about coffee itself, not the caffeine - that is protective.  

The protective effect of coffee was particularly strong among women who had quit smoking or who had never been smokers. When the researchers limited their analysis to women with hypertension, they found that coffee consumption wasn't protective in relation to stroke risk; the same was true for women with high cholesterol levels and those with diabetes. There are several possible ways that coffee could protect against stroke; for example, by reducing inflammation, improving insulin sensitivity, or preventing oxidative damage, Lopez-Garcia and her team note. The study is published in the March 3, 2009 issue of the journal Circulation.