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Bruce Jancin is with the Denver bureau of Elsevier Global Medical News.
STOCKHOLM — The fountain of youth just might be a basin filled with rich, strong coffee, a study of one of the world's longest-lived people indicates.
“Our results suggest that drinking coffee in moderation should be encouraged even in elderly hypertensive subjects, as it seems it may improve arterial aging. Maybe regular coffee consumption is one of the key elements of the longevity we have noticed in the Ikaria Islanders, Christina Chrysohoou, MD, PhD, mused at the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology.
The Aegean Sea island of Ikaria has one of the world's highest proportions of individuals who survive into their 90s and 100s.
Seeking an explanation last year Dr. Chrysohoou led a 5-month University of Athens–sponsored in-depth study of 343 male and 330 female long-time residents aged 65-100 years. As a cardiologist, Dr. Chrysohoou said, one of the factors she was particularly eager to examine was coffee consumption, since it is a deeply embedded part of the Ikarian way of life, and also because coffee – especially Greek-style coffee – is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds,
Among the 465 study participants being treated for hypertension, those who were moderate coffee drinkers – averaging 1-2 of the traditional small 50-mL cups daily – had a significantly lower prevalence of diabetes, dyslipidemia, and cardiovascular disease as well as a lower mean body mass index and higher creatinine clearance than did hypertensive non–coffee drinkers.
Of particular interest was the finding that hypertensive moderate coffee drinkers had significantly greater aortic distensibility as measured echocardiographically than did hypertensive subjects who consumed coffee rarely or never.
Traditional Greek coffee is very strong and dark. It is made by boiling the beans for 2-3 minutes. The resultant beverage contains up to 50 times greater concentrations of cafestol, kahweol, and other diterpenes than those of filtered coffee. Greek coffee also is rich in flavonoids, niacin, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin E, Dr. Chrysohoousheplained.
One caveat regarding the study findings is that coffee drinking on Ikaria is very much a social experience. The elderly study participants generally take their coffee while socializing in the morning or early afternoon with long-time friends orwfamily aCoffee consumption on the island is a relaxing, unhurried experience enjoyed while discussing daily events.
“The psychological and social circumstances play an important role,” she observed.
“I'm a clinical cardiologist, and most clinicians forbid coffee for their hypertensive patients,” noted Dr. Xavier Bosch of the University of Barcelona, who added he will reconsider his stance as a result of the Greek study.
The other key factor Dr. Chrysohoou and her coworkers identified as likely to contribute to the extended life expectancy of Ikaria Islanders is that these oldest residents are of a generation that tends to adhere most strictly to the traditional Mediterranean diet as popularized by the late University of Minnesota cardiovascular epidemiologist Ancel Keys, PhD, also known for formulating K-rations in World War II. Dr. Chrysohoou declared having no financial conflicts.