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A cup of coffee a day keeps the risk of stroke at bay

Drinking too much coffee has been associated with hand tremors and nervousness. But drinking too low or none at all is also losing the chance to lower the risk of certain diseases, such as stroke.

A recent finding, published in the journal Stroke of the American Heart Association, suggested that low or no coffee consumption is associated with an increased risk of stroke in women.

"Our research group has previously observed an inverse association between coffee consumption and risk in Finnish male smokers," said lead researcher Susanna Larsson, Ph.D., of the Division of Nutritional Epidemiology, National Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. "We wanted to assess the situation in women."

The study involved 34,670 women who were followed during the span of 10.4 years. These women were participants of the Swedish Mammmography Cohort that investigated the association between diet, lifestyle and disease development. They had no history of cardiovascular (heart) disease or cancer when coffee consumption was assessed in 1997.

The researchers took note of the incidents of first stroke that occurred between January 1998 and December 2008 and found 1,680 cases of stroke. After adjustment for other risk factors, the results showed that drinking a cup of coffee a day was associated with a 22% to 25% lower risk of stroke, compared with those who drank less. Analysis also showed that the effects of drinking 1-2 cups/day, 3-4 cups/day, or 5 or more cups/day on reducing the risk of cerebrovascular accident (stroke) were relatively similar. And these effects were unchanged by smoking habits, body mass index, history of diabetes, hypertension or alcohol use.

The study cited potential ways that coffee drinking might reduce the risk of stroke, which include weakening of subclinical inflammation, reducing oxidative stress and improving insulin sensitivity which is vital to metabolism.

Dr. Larsson said that, "Some women have avoided consuming coffee because they have thought it is unhealthy. In fact, increasing evidence indicates that moderate coffee consumption may decrease the risk of some diseases such as diabetes, liver cancer and possibly stroke."

The author, however, admitted that more studies on coffee consumption and stroke are needed to support these findings.

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