Decaffeinated coffee may raise the risk of cardiovascular disease more than regular coffee does, Atlanta investigators announced at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2005 that are underway here.
Dr H Robert Superko, and colleagues at the Fuqua Heart Center and the Piedmont-Mercer Center for Health and Learning, analyzed the effects of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee consumption on cardiovascular risk factors in 187 subjects enrolled in a clinical trial known as the Coffee and Lipoprotein Metabolism Study.
The subjects were randomly assigned to one of three groups: noncoffee drinkers, coffee drinkers and decaf drinkers, who drank three to six cups a day for two months.
At the end of the study period, Superko found no significant differences in fasting glucose or insulin (measures used to diagnosis diabetes), total cholesterol, HDL2 (the very good cholesterol) or triglycerides among the three groups.
However, decaf coffee significantly increased free fatty acid levels, which in turn led to an increase in apolipoprotein B, which is associated with LDL cholesterol.
"Free fatty acids are like the gasoline that drives a lot of metabolic functions. This is of interest because it is unrelated to caffeine, which many people used to think was the culprit in the coffee heart disease controversy," Superko told Reuters Health. On the other hand, he noted, caffeinated coffee but not decaf increased blood pressure.
"The dose is an important issue," he added, emphasizing that subjects in the study drank between three and six cups a day. "People should not freak out if they drink one or two cups a day."
"This study was funded with your tax dollars (National Institutes of Health) and not the coffee industry which is actually important. Watch out for the coffee industry response!" Superko warned.