Features September 2012 Issue

Opt for Coffee Instead of Soda For Cardiovascular Health

Two recent studies show how soda raises stroke risk and coffee benefits heart failure patients.

For your next mid-morning pick-me-up, reach for the coffee pot instead of that soda sitting in your refrigerator. And even if you prefer the decaffeinated stuff, recent studies still show coffee to be a healthier option than sugar-sweetened soft drinks.

Researchers from Cleveland Clinic and Harvard University have found that greater consumption of sugar-sweetened as well as low-calorie sodas is associated with a higher risk of stroke. The study was published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“What we’re beginning to understand is that regular intake of these beverages sets off a chain reaction in the body that can potentially lead to many diseases—including stroke,” says Adam Bernstein, MD, author of a recent study on soda and stroke risk, and Research Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute.

He adds that, while the exact relationship between soda and stroke risk isn’t clear, part of the explanation may lie in how soda can change blood pressure and blood sugar, driving up one’s stroke risk. In the study, which involved more than 120,000 men and women, researchers found that people who drank the most soda also tended to eat more red meat and whole fat dairy products. Those dietary choices can increase cholesterol, which in turn contributes to atherosclerosis, a risk factor for stroke.

Coffee’s Benefits
Unlike soda, coffee contains chlorogenic acids, lignans and magnesium, all of which act as antioxidants. When compared with one serving of sugar-sweetened soda, one serving of decaffeinated coffee was associated with a 10 percent lower risk of stroke.

And in a separate study, published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure, coffee was found to protect against heart failure. The research, which was culled from five previous studies involving more than 140,000 men and women, found that moderate coffee drinkers experienced an 11 percent lower risk of heart failure than people who drank no coffee. Moderate coffee consumption was defined as drinking two 8-ounce cups of coffee a day.