Coffee and Heart Disease

Coffee is good for your heart – so say multiple media outlets after a small study in the journal Heart showed that people who drank more coffee had lower calcium scores for their heart. Coffee does not reduce or eliminate coronary artery disease –  that is NOT what the study shows.

Calcium scores are done by a CAT scan of the heart that detect calcium in the coronary arteries. Calcium normally isn’t found in the arteries at a level that can be seen by CT scan. It indicates that there is a buildup of coronary artery disease and the person may be at higher risk for a heart attack. Based on some math a score is assigned and it turns out that calcium scores are often more reliable than a “stress test” for determining if a person risk for a heart attack – especially if they are considered at “moderate” risk for heart disease.


Some arteries are so calcified you can see them on a regular x-ray. The white arteries on the right of this photo are the coronary arteries of the heart

This study looked at about 25,000 people at moderate risk for heart disease and looked at a number of factors, but one of them was coffee consumption. Years ago people with heart disease were encouraged to not drink coffee, but there was NO evidence to support that recommendation.  This study adds to that.

What this study does NOT do is state that coffee is good for coronary arteries. That is the message the news media picked up.

Good message: coffee won’t hurt your heart – but don’t think it will reverse heart disease.

Underlying message – most journalists don’t read science studies but interpret based upon what is “attention grabbing.”

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit

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