Greek coffee the key to a longer life?

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 19th March 2013

The answer to a longer life may be right under our noses: a morning caffeine kick. In a new study in Vascular Medicine, published by SAGE, researchers investigating cardiovascular health found that a cup of boiled Greek coffee could hold the clue to the elderly islanders’ good health.

The elderly inhabitants of Ikaria, the Greek island, boast the highest rates of longevity in the World, and science often turns to them when looking to discover the ‘secret to longevity’. Only 0.1 per cent of Europeans live to be over 90, but on the island of Ikaria, 1 per cent of the population lives past 90. This is recognised as one of the highest longevity rates anywhere – and the islanders tend to live out their longer lives in good health.

Researchers set out to find out whether the elderly population’s coffee drinking had an effect on their health. In particular, the researchers investigated links between coffee-drinking habits and the subjects’ endothelial function. The endothelium is a layer of cells that lines blood vessels, which is affected both by aging and by lifestyle habits such as smoking. The researchers focused on coffee because other recent studies suggest that moderate coffee consumption may slightly reduce the risks of coronary heart disease, and that it may also have a positive impact on several aspects of endothelial health.

From a sample of 673 Ikarians aged over 65 who lived on the island permanently, the researchers randomly selected 71 men and 71 women to take part in the study. Medical staff used health checks, such as checks for high blood pressure and diabetes, and questionnaires to get more detail on the participants’ medical health, lifestyles and coffee drinking. They also tested the residents’ endothelial function.

Although the researchers investigated all types of coffee taken by participants, they found that more than 87 per cent of those in the study consumed boiled, Greek coffee daily. More importantly, subjects consuming mainly boiled Greek coffee had better endothelial function than those who consumed other types of coffee. Even in those with high blood pressure, boiled Greek coffee consumption was associated with improved endothelial function, without worrying impacts on blood pressure.

“Boiled Greek type of coffee, which is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants and contains only a moderate amount of caffeine, seems to gather benefits compared to other coffee beverages,” said research leader, medical doctor and professor at the University of Athens Medical School Gerasimos Siasos.

The new study provides a new connection between nutritional habits and cardiovascular health. Given the extent of coffee drinking across the world, and the fact that even small health effects of at least one type of coffee could have a large impact on public health, this study provides an interesting starting point. Researchers suggested that further studies are needed to find out the exact beneficial mechanisms of coffee on cardiovascular health.

Australian Food News notes that this research comes as governing bodies in Europe begin a new investigation into the safety of caffeine.

Australian Food News has also reported other recent research findings that support the health benefits of coffee.