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More good news for coffee drinkers – coffee may lower the risk of stroke in women. In a study published in Circulation: The Journal of the American Heart Association, Esther Lopez-Garcia of the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid said that women who drink four or more cups of coffee a day have a 20% chance less risk of stroke than women who drink less than one cup of coffee a month.
The researchers used data collected in the Nurses’ Health Study, one of the largest collections of data ever collated. Begun in 1980, the Nurses’ Health Study tracked over 83,000 women for 24 years. The women, all medical health professionals, started the study with no history of heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer. Every two years, they were each asked to fill out a survey about the frequency with which they ate and drank certain foods. After factoring out other habits such as smoke and exercise, the study found that women who drink coffee have a significantly lower risk of stroke, and that the risk decreased further the more coffee the women drank.
The study found that for women who had never smoked or women who had quit smoking and who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had a 43% lower risk of stroke than women who drank no coffee or less than one coffee a month. Smoking, however, practically negates the positive effects of coffee on risk of stroke – women who smoked and drank four or more cups of coffee a day had only a 3% reduction in stroke risk.
Can’t quite stomach four or more cups of coffee a day? No worries – women who drank 2-3 cups of coffee a day reduced their risk of stroke by 19%, and women who drank 5-7 cups of coffee a week reduced their risk of stroke by 12%. However, Lopez-Garcia emphasized that those figures only hold true for women who don’t smoke and are otherwise healthy. Women with high blood pressure or diabetes saw significantly less benefit from drinking coffee, and that benefit might be offset by the harmful effects that coffee may have on high blood pressure.
The positive effect of coffee on stroke risk is due to coffee, not caffeine, it seems. The same benefit didn’t apply to those who drank equivalent amounts of caffeinated soda or tea.