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For years, doctors have recommended that patients lower their risk of hypertension by cutting down on caffeine intake. The advice was based on the knowledge that caffeine is a stimulant drug that increases the heart rate and blood pressure when you drink it. However, researchers at Johns Hopkins University say that drinking moderate amounts of coffee daily, even over the course of thirty years, has no effect on blood pressure.
The research team compiled information about more than 1,000 white males who graduated from JHU medical school between 1948 and 1964. Most of them were coffee drinkers, averaging about two cups of coffee a day. They were followed for three decades, with researchers checking their coffee intake and blood pressure to see if any increases in blood pressure could be linked to heightened coffee consumption. They found no evidence to link coffee drinking to higher blood pressure. They concluded that “Long-term coffee drinking did not substantially increase the risk of developing hypertension.”
Hypertension can lead to arterial damage that contributes to heart disease and stroke. Coffee and caffeine consumption does increase blood pressure and heart rate in the short term, but there seems to be no link between coffee drinking and chronic hypertension.
However, most medical professionals advise moderation. Those who drink eight or more cups of coffee a day may be putting themselves at risk for health complications.
The Flip Side
While most medical associations and researchers are now saying they see no risk in moderate consumption of coffee – up to four or five cups a day – the jury is still out on some more specific health risks of drinking coffee. In particular, many researchers are uncertain about the risks connected with high rates of coffee consumption – eight or more cups of coffee daily.
In the UK, pregnant women have been advised to keep their coffee drinking at no more than four cups of coffee a day after a study suggested that high coffee consumption increases the risk of miscarriage, though ‘a couple of cups a day has not been shown to be detrimental’.
It’s also been suggested that coffee may make it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar levels, and a Finnish study suggests that drinking more than five cups of coffee a day may increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.