Before you pour that next cup of coffee or head to the corner cafe, you may want to get up to speed on the latest coffee research.

Drinking even moderate amounts of coffee may raise your risk of heart disease (search), according to a Greek study.

Past studies looking at coffee's effects on the heart have shown conflicting results. This study is the first to focus on coffee and inflammation, one of the key mechanisms linked to the development of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

The report, which appears in the October issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shows that people who drink moderate to high amounts of coffee had increased levels of markers of inflammation.

Coffee Increases Markers of Inflammation

The study included more than 3,000 Greek men and women with no history of heart disease.

Participants filled out questionnaires about their coffee drinking as well as other factors that influence heart health such as age, sex, body mass index (BMI), diet, exercise, smoking habits, and use of medications. They also indicated their consumption of fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, olive oil, and alcohol.   

They also provided blood samples, which were screened for markers of inflammation (search).

The results were analyzed by researchers including Demosthenes Panagiotakos of the nutrition and dietetics department at Harokopio University in Athens.

Participants who said they drank more than 200 mL of coffee a day (a little more than one cup, which was defined as moderate consumption) had higher levels of inflammatory markers than those who drank no coffee.

The results held even after factoring in influences like age, sex, diet, and exercise.

"The results presented here suggest that the increase in inflammatory markers could be evident even with two cups of coffee/day," write the researchers.

There's no refuge in splitting hairs about the type of caffeinated coffee beverage consumed.

The researchers took that into account, asking participants whether they drank instant coffee, brewed coffee, Greek-type coffee, cappuccino, or filtered coffee.

Since some of those coffee drinks may be more concentrated than others, the various drinks were adjusted to equal one cup of coffee at 28 mg of caffeine per cup.

The authors say that while diet exerts an effect on high blood pressure, cholesterol (search), and inflammation markers in blood (search), the study adds evidence that diet intervention can reduce the inflammatory process and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

By Miranda Hitti, Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: Zampelas, A. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2004; vol 80: pp 862-867. Reuters Health.