BALTIMORE — A 25-year study of coffee users found that people who drink five or more cups a day have almost three times the risk of heart problems as non-coffee drinkers, researchers say.
In a study of 1,130 white male graduates of Johns Hopkins Medical School between 1948 and 1964, the risk of heart trouble was 2.8 times higher for heavy coffee drinkers, the researchers said.
Even when other risk factors--smoking, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and age--are considered, there is a 2.5-times increased risk, the researchers said Monday, presenting their findings at the 58th scientific session of the American Heart Assn.
Some previous studies have found a possible link between coffee consumption and heart disease, while others have not, said Dr. Thomas A. Pearson, director of the Johns Hopkins Precursors Study, as yet unpublished.
He said the study did not constitute enough evidence to unequivocally advise Americans--about 75% of whom drink coffee--to cut down on consumption. He did suggest it wouldn't hurt to drink two cups a day or less.
A coffee industry spokesman said Americans average 3 1/2 cups of coffee a day.
The researchers obtained information on coffee use and smoking habits at five-year intervals for up to 25 years. The study did not differentiate between caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee.
"Our data is unique in several ways," Pearson said. "We have a large group which has been very cooperative, who have been followed for a very long time. That makes us believe this study may provide a more accurate picture of the link between coffee and heart trouble."
Dr. William Kannel, an epidemiology professor at Boston University School of Medicine, said, "We have to consider the quality of life" when discussing a possible cut in coffee consumption.
He pointed out that deaths from coronary heart disease have dropped 30% in recent years and deaths from stroke 45%, probably due in part to people quitting smoking, eating less fat and exercising more.
"I would consider continuing in that direction before we take away too many things that people enjoy in life," he said.