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By TODAY Food Editor
TODAY
updated 2/27/2007 11:41:59 AM ET 2007-02-27T16:41:59

Elderly people with little or no blood-pressure problems can drink two to four cups of coffee a day and lower their risk of death by heart disease, as much as 32 percent, according to the results of a study published in the February edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And, those who consumed four or more servings had an even better chance of deflecting death by heart disease, 53 percent, over those whose consumption was barely one cup per day.

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Although having little or no presence of hypertension is a factor, researchers conclude that drinking caffeinated beverages actually induces a rise in blood pressure, but in a very healthful way. As we age, each time we eat our blood pressure drops naturally. By drinking coffee after a meal, the caffeine in coffee may help balance this natural drop.

Interestingly, coffees with higher amounts of caffeine had better impact. Both caffeinated ground coffee and caffeinated instant coffee caused a “statistically significant protective effect.” Although this study demonstrates that elderly people with regular blood pressure benefit from caffeinated coffee, those people, young or old, who have severe high blood pressure seem not to receive any protective effect. The researchers are not totally sure if it is age that makes the difference but it appears that increasing consumption among healthy persons older than 65 without hypertension may have an impact on decreasing the risk of death from heart disease.

The study involved 6,594 adults over a period of nine years. Fewer than 6.5 percent or 426 people died from heart disease. Researchers discovered that higher daily consumption of caffeinated beverages was directly associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease, especially for those participants over age 65. Directing the study was Dr. James A. Greenberg,  associate professor of health and science, and his colleagues in the Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

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