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Tuesday, August 3, 1999 Published at 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK


Coffee beats tea on heart disease

The result surprised the researchers

People who drink coffee are less likely to suffer heart disease than tea drinkers, a seven-and-a-half-year study of health trends in Scotland has said.

The finding undermines research showing increased health benefits with tea drinking, although the researchers were quick to point out that there was no definite cause and effect link.

They said it might not necessarily be coffee drinking that led to better health, but that people who chose to drink coffee had healthier lifestyles in other respects.

BBC Scotland reporter Alan Grant: "Exploding the myth that coffee is bad"
However, the study did show that those who drank the most coffee were the least likely to die from heart disease while the opposite was true of tea drinking.

Tea has been thought to have health improving properties because it contains antioxidants - particles that have been found to reduce the risk of cancer and prevent good cholesterol turning into bad cholesterol, which can cause heart disease.

Coffee, on the other hand, has been thought to be bad for health in large amounts because it can alter heart rhythms.

However, the large-scale study, carried out at the Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, came to a conclusion that would appear to contradict such wisdom.

Random study

It looked at 11,000 men and women aged between 40 and 59 who had been chosen at random to take part in the seven-year Scottish Heart Health Study.

They drank up to 21 cups of coffee and 36 cups of tea per day, with smokers tending to drink more.

The researchers also looked at the probability of death from any cause, death from heart disease and the incidence of heart attacks or bypass surgery.

When they compared the figures, they found that the higher the coffee consumption, the lower the chances of heart disease or death, with the opposite being true of tea.

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The researchers pointed out that this does not mean drinking coffee is good for you or drinking coffee is good, as there could be any number of other interpretations.

In particular, tea drinking was associated with increasing deprivation, which is known to be a significant risk factor for ill health in itself.

Also, drinking coffee may be associated with a younger - and therefore healthier - lifestyle.

The researchers published their analysis in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Simple steps

A spokesman for the British Heart Foundation said: "It just goes to show there are so many things that have been reported as having a minor risk of heart disease or a minor benefit.

"The main thing to take away from all this is that while the experts disagree on these minor risk factors we mustn't lose sight of the fact that there are some very simple steps we all can take that will make a very, very definite reduction in our heart disease risk."

These included not smoking, taking exercise and eating a healthy diet.

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