February 10, 2007
High Caffeine Diets Reduce Heart Risk In Over 65s

For those over age 65 the amount of caffeinated foods (chocolate, coffee, tea, etc) consumed is negatively correlated with death from heart disease.

Writing in the current issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Greenberg and his co-workers from the State University of New York and the City University of New York report the results of their epidemiological study of 6594 men and women aged between 32 and 86 using data from the 19711973 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I) and follow-up until 1992.

Intake of caffeinated beverages, including coffee, tea, and caffeinated cola and chocolate, was calculated from food frequency questionnaires, and classified according to average daily intake: less than half a serving, between half and two servings, two to four servings, four or more servings.

Was the protective effect from caffeine or from other compounds in the caffeinated foods? I wonder if the researchers tried excluding caffeinated colas or tried weighting the foods based on amounts of bioflavonoids to see if the effect tracked better with the amount of caffeine or the amount of other compounds..

Note that this effect was found only for those over age 65. Does this beneficial effect require a lifetime of caffeine consumption? Or could one wait till one reaches one's 60s before becoming a regular consumer of tea, coffee, and chocolate? (I err on the safe side and eat the chocolate many years before reaching the elderly stage)

For this age group, the researchers report that increasing intake of caffeinate beverages was associated with decreasing risk of mortality from these conditions. Indeed, drinking four or more servings per day reduced the risk of heart disease mortality by 53 per cent.

A Dutch study from a year ago found lower blood pressure and half the risk of heart disease and less death overall among elderly men who consume the most chocolate.

Over the next 15 years, men who consumed cocoa regularly had significantly lower blood pressure than those who did not.

Over the course of the study, 314 men died, 152 due to cardiovascular diseases.

Men in the group with the highest cocoa consumption were half as likely as the others to die from cardiovascular disease.

Their risk remained lower even when other factors, such as weight, smoking habits, physical activity levels, calorie intake and alcohol consumption were taken into account.

The men who consumed more cocoa were also less likely to die of any cause.

The Dutch researchers suspect that polyphenol compounds in cocoa are responsible for the protective effects. But the effective dose needed is quite high. You are best off eating dark rather than milk chocolate and better yet cocoa powder. I put cocoa powder on apple sauce for this reason.

Thanks to Lou Pagnucco for the heads up.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 February 10 03:21 PM  Aging Diet Studies

Bob Badour said at February 10, 2007 4:12 PM:

Then again, caffeine could be very bad for the heart unless one has a very strong heart and by 65 the caffeine already killed off all the caffeine drinkers with weak to mediocre hearts leaving stronger than average hearts in the 65+ caffeine drinking cohort.

carl said at February 10, 2007 4:35 PM:

@Bob - that would also imply more mortality in coffee drinkers under 65, something which didn't occur.

Note that it is unlikely that you would find any effect on mortality for under 65 since mortality would be so low in all groups. Whether effect is due to caffeine or other ingredients in coffee, this study certainly should make one more confident that drinking coffee is not overall a negative.

M. Simon said at February 11, 2007 3:24 PM:

Could the anamides (THC analogs) in chocolate have an effect (lowering stress)?

Kelly Parks said at February 12, 2007 11:02 AM:

Ha! Good point, Bob. Maybe the caffiene filtered out (killed off) those with weak hearts before they reached 65, leaving only the strong hearted.

Randall, I recall hearing that cocoa powder (as in hot chocolate) didn't have any polyphenols (or resveratrol) because of the treatment process the cocoa goes through. Is that not the case?

Randall Parker said at February 12, 2007 7:32 PM:

Kelly Parks,

I am now skeptical of the claim that regular dark chocolate and cocoa powder are poor sources of the bioflavonoids due to processing.

See an article entitled Concentrations of Proanthocyanidins in Common Foods and Estimations of Normal Consumption (PDF format) which in table 1 near the end a section on chocolate. Note how baking chocolate has 8 or 9 times more of the good stuff than what they call black chocolate which has over double what milk chocolate has. See column "Total PAs" on the right and compare a bunch of foods.

You can also see that article in HTML format and see that table in its own page.

BTW, note the huge difference between raw and simmered pinto beans. Does that mean that the PAs get destroyed easily by heat? Are food sources of PAs that you do not have to cook the far better choices in one's diet?

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