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Coffee drinking elevates plasma homocysteine and risk factors for coronary heart disease

High plasma homocysteine concentration is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and consumption of unfiltered and filtered coffee raises homocysteine levels. As yet, it is unclear which substances in brewed coffee are responsible for its homocysteine-raising properties. In an article published in this month's American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Verhoef et al. investigated the effects of caffeine alone and in brewed coffee on homocysteine concentrations in a group of healthy volunteers. Brewed coffee increased homocysteine levels within hours of consumption and seemed to have a particularly strong effect when taken after meals.

The 21 male and 27 female participants in the study, aged 19 to 65 years old, were all heavy coffee drinkers who consumed 6 or more cups of filtered or instant coffee daily. Thirty-one percent of the subjects were smokers, who are known to metabolize caffeine more rapidly than non-smokers. Three treatments, administered in random order for a period of 2 weeks each, consisted of either capsules containing 870mg of caffeine daily; 4 cups of strong filtered coffee that contained 870 mg of caffeine; or placebo capsules. Despite the fact that both treatments had a similar amount of caffeine, the average fasting homocysteine concentration rose by 11% after the subjects drank brewed coffee for 2 weeks, compared to a 5% increase after caffeine alone. The paper filter in the brewed coffee retained trace amounts of several substances that were suspected to be responsible for the rise in homocysteine concentrations, including chlorogenic acid (a polyphenolic compound) that is not removed by filtering.

Epidemiologic associatations between coffee consumption and CVD are conflicting; therefore, public health implications of the homocysteine-raising effects of caffeine and coffee will remain unclear until a causal relation between high homocysteine concentrations and CVD is proven.


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Contact: Elizabeth Horowitz
horowitz@ascn.faseb.org
301-530-7038
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
21-Nov-2002


Page: 1

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