Coffee lovers who drink more than three cups a day may lower their risk of clogged arteries, according to a new study.
The University of Sao Paulo study, which was recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that habitual coffee consumption had a positive impact on levels of calcium build-up in the coronary arteries.
There was, however, one important caveat to their findings, with the health benefits from regular coffee intake only affecting those patients who had never smoked.
The scientists surveyed 4426 adults on their coffee-drinking habits.
They used a food frequency questionnaire to determine how much coffee each subject consumed. They were then divided into three groups based on these results: less than one cup of coffee per day, one to three cups per day, and more than three cups daily.
All subjects also underwent a CT scan, which was used to assess the build-up of calcium in their coronary arteries, a condition which can ultimately trigger a heart attack.
Compared with adults who consumed less than one cup or one to three cups of coffee each day, those who consumed at least three cups daily were less likely to show coronary calcification on their CT scans.
However, after adjustment, the researchers found that this association was only significant for adults who had never smoked. People who had never smoked and consumed at least three cups of coffee daily had a 63 per cent lower risk of coronary calcification.
For former or current smokers, drinking coffee appeared to have no benefits for calcium build-up.
"It is possible that deleterious effects of smoking overwhelm the benefits of coffee intake on early cardiovascular disease injury," the researchers speculated. "So this impact of coffee may occur only in people who have never smoked."
The researchers noted that because their study is observational, it cannot prove cause and effect between coffee consumption and calcium accumulation.
Still, they suggest that regular coffee consumption could have clinical implications for heart health.
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