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How Caffeine Affects Diabetes and Heart Disease

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Coffee and heart disease

Coffee and tea both contain caffeine, an addictive chemical that stimulates the heart and brain. Having a diet rich in caffeine can cause palpitations and insomnia whilst withdrawal can result in headaches.

For a long time people thought there might be a link between drinking coffee and coronary heart disease. In studies conducted in Scandinavia, coffee drinkers had higher than average levels of LDL-cholesterol in their blood. This led to the belief that drinking coffee could lead to furring of the arteries.

What was later discovered is that coffee can cause heart disease but only if it is made in a certain way. Scandinavian-style boiled coffee causes increased levels of LDL cholesterol. Boiling coffee releases two fatty lipids, called cafestol and kahweol. These fats raise your LDL cholesterol level.

Filter coffee doesn’t contain these fats. They are strained out during the filtering process. Instant coffee doesn’t contain these fats either. Only boiled coffee and cafetière coffee have high enough levels of fatty lipids to increase risk of heart disease.


Research on the impact that tea can have on heart disease and diabetes has proved inconclusive. One study done in laboratory setting showed that drinking black tea improved blood flow to the heart but and there have been claims that because tea contains micronutrients called “flavonoid antioxidants” there may be benefits in the area of allergy, viruses and cancer as well as cardiovascular health but these claims have not been conclusively proved outside the laboratory.

Lime scale

If you live in a hard water area and get lime scale in your kettle there’s no need to worry. Studies have shown that people who drink water with increased amounts of calcium carbonate have slightly lower rates of heart disease.

Caffeine and Heart Disease

There is no evidence that caffeine has any adverse affect that might lead to higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. Fatty lipids in boiled and cafetière coffee can increase levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood. As this cholesterol hardens it reduces the size of the arteries, and restricts blood flow. This can eventually lead to clotting that can cause heart attacks or strokes.

10706 Revised November 2012

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