Drinking coffee may be associated with a decreased risk of developing heart failure or having a stroke, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Scientific Sessions 2017, a global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians.
Researchers used machine learning to analyze data from the long-running Framingham Heart Study, which includes information about what people eat and their cardiovascular health. They found that drinking coffee was associated with decreased risk of developing heart failure by 7 percent and stroke by 8 percent with every additional cup of coffee consumed per week compared with non-coffee drinkers.
The AHA also points out that it is important to note this type of study design demonstrates an observed association but does not prove cause and effect.
Coffee decreases risk consistently
Machine learning works by finding associations within data, much in the same way that online shopping sites predict products that users may like based on their shopping history. It is one type of big data analysis, the AHA notes.
To ensure the validity of their results and determine the direction of risk, the researchers further investigated the machine learning results using traditional analysis in two studies with similar sets of data – the Cardiovascular Heart Study and the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. The association between drinking coffee and a decreased risk of heart failure and stroke was consistently noted in all three studies.
While many risk factors for heart failure and stroke are well known, the researchers believe it is likely that there are as-yet-unidentified risk factors. “Our findings suggest that machine learning could help us identify additional factors to improve existing risk assessment models,” says Laura M. Stevens, B.S., first author of the study, a doctoral student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, Colorado.
“The risk assessment tools we currently use for predicting whether someone might develop heart disease, particularly heart failure or stroke, are very good but they are not 100 percent accurate,” Stevens adds.
Red meat presents additional risk
Another potential risk factor identified by machine-learning analysis was red meat consumption, although the association between red meat consumption and heart failure or stroke was less clear.
Eating red meat was associated with decreased risk of heart failure and stroke in the Framingham Heart Study but validating the finding in comparable studies is more challenging due to differences in the definitions of red meat between studies. Further investigation to better determine how red meat consumption affects risk for heart failure and stroke is ongoing, according to the AHA.
The researchers also built a predictive model using known risk factors from the Framingham Risk Score such as blood pressure, age and other patient characteristics associated with cardiovascular disease. “By including coffee in the model, the prediction accuracy increased by 4 percent. Machine learning may be a useful addition to the way we look at data and help us find new ways to lower the risk of heart failure and strokes,” says David Kao, M.D., senior author of the study and an assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, Colorado.
When it comes to overall diet, the AHA suggests limiting red meat, which is high in saturated fat, as part of a healthy dietary pattern that should emphasize, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry and fish.
Coffee’s health benefits may not stop at heart health, as recent research has suggested that it could help to delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes and prevent liver fibrosis. An example of a recent product launch in the coffee space with a health positioning is CoffeeFruit Pure’s namesake antioxidant-rich super fruit ingredient.