One of the most frequently asked questions about blood pressure

I hear people say that coffee is no good for my blood pressure and my heart. Is it all bad?

No, it’s not all bad. We often focus on the fact that coffee contains caffeine, a bitter-tasting white crystalline substance that scientists describe as the most commonly consumed psychoactive drug in the world.

Caffeine’s ability to stimulate our brain and thus our central nervous system means that, in excess, it can leave us feeling jittery and makes it hard to relax and sleep well.

Four to six caffeinated drinks a day is generally regarded as a “moderate” and safe consumption, although pregnant women should stick with 200mg of caffeine (about two cups of coffee a day).

As far as blood pressure is concerned, caffeine does lead to increases in people who don’t have it regularly, but tolerance develops within several days and research suggests that when consumed in coffee (as opposed to caffeine tablets), its impact on raising blood pressure is comparable to the effect of walking up stairs.

Evidence that coffee causes the heart to race after drinking is, experts say, “anecdotal and tenuous”. As for heart disease, if you avoid coffee that hasn’t been filtered or boiled then it does not increase “bad” cholesterol.

It is increasingly recognised that coffee is more than just a sum of its caffeine, milk and sugar load, providing us with hundreds of compounds including a host of antioxidants such as cholorgenic acid and lignans.

Research suggests that having between one and three cups of coffee daily may help to reduce the risk of heart attacks, and that this may in some part be down to these supernutrients.

A new analysis of 42,000 people in Europe showed that people drinking four or more cups of coffee daily were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared with those sticking with just one. The apparent protective effects may again be down to cholorogenic acid, which in experiments seems to help to inhibit glucose absorption and even out insulin levels. The mineral magnesium, found in coffee, may also play a protective role.These potentially protective effects appear to have nothing to do with the caffeine in coffee because decaf drinkers in the study had an even lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

As scientists from Harvard University inform us, human and animal studies suggest a hint of protection against Alzheimer’s. Early evidence suggests that coffee may fight against beta-amyloid plaques in the brain that could cause Alzheimer’s.