Researchers suggest that drinking at least three cups of coffee daily may benefit the heart health of never-smokers.
If you simply can't face the day without your cup of joe, you're not alone.
Most of us enjoy coffee for a mental boost, but scientists find that there is much more to the beverage than meets the brain.
One study that Medical News Today covered last year, for example, tied coffee consumption to a 70 percent reduction in liver disease, while other research has linked the beverage to a lower risk of heart attack and stroke.
The new study — which was recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association — further suggests that coffee may protect our heart health.
Conducted by researchers from the University of São Paulo in Brazil, the study reveals that drinking at least three cups of coffee every day may lower the risk of clogged arteries, or atherosclerosis.
Plaque comprises a number of substances found in the blood, one of which is calcium.
According to the study researchers — including Dirce M. Marchioni, of the University of São Paulo's School of Public Health — few studies have investigated how coffee affects calcium buildup in the coronary arteries, and those that have looked at this association have produced inconsistent results.
Coffee beneficial, but only for never-smokers
To explore this link further, Marchioni and colleagues analyzed the data of 4,426 adults — aged 50, on average — who were living in São Paulo, Brazil.
They used a food frequency questionnaire to determine how much coffee each subject consumed. They were then divided into three groups based on these results: fewer than one cup of coffee per day, one to three cups per day, and more than three cups daily.
All subjects also underwent a CT scan, which was used to assess the buildup of calcium in their coronary arteries.
Compared with adults who consumed fewer than one cup or one to three cups of coffee each day, those who consumed at least three cups daily were less likely to show coronary calcification on their CT scans.
However, after adjustment, the researchers found that this association was only significant for adults who had never smoked. In fact, never-smokers who consumed at least three cups of coffee daily had a 63 percent lower risk of coronary calcification.
For former or current smokers, drinking coffee appeared to have no benefits for calcium buildup.
"It is possible that deleterious effects of smoking overwhelm the benefits of coffee intake on early cardiovascular disease injury," the team speculates, "so this impact of coffee may occur only in people who have never smoked."
The researchers note that because their study is observational, it cannot prove cause and effect between coffee consumption and calcium accumulation.
Still, they suggest that regular coffee consumption could have clinical implications for heart health.
Commenting on their results, Marchioni and colleagues write:
"Our findings suggest that coffee consumption could exert a potential beneficial effect against coronary calcification and CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk, particularly in non-smokers."