Four cups of coffee a day protects against heart disease

We knew that coffee is good for us. Now we know why.

Four cups of coffee a day protects against heart disease
Coffee beans are pictured at the Vanibel cocoa and vanilla production facility, a former 18th Century sugar refinery in Vieux-Habitants, Guadeloupe, on April 9, 2018. (Photo by Helene Valenzuela/AFP/Getty Images)

Last week I overheard a conversation in which a woman was telling a man how she didn’t drink coffee. The virtues of a caffeine-free life were shared between the two, including the supposed toxicity of coffee and how being “natural” is a much healthier option. The two concluded their chat with self-satisfied grins, behavioral one-ups on the other 90 percent of the country that drinks the poisonous extract from those nasty beans.


And then there’s science. 

A new study appearing in PLOS Biology, led by Judith Haendeler and Joachim Altschmied in Duesseldorf, Germany, shows that a physiologically-relevant dose of caffeine—in this case, what is achieved with four cups of coffee—protects cardiovascular cells from damage.

It has long been known that caffeine is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. These researchers wanted to know why. According to their research, a mitochondrial protein, p27, protects heart muscles from cell death and helps repair these muscles after a heart attack. After the discovery, Haendeler said

These results should lead to better strategies for protecting heart muscle from damage, including consideration of coffee consumption or caffeine as an additional dietary factor in the elderly population. Furthermore, enhancing mitochondrial p27 could serve as a potential therapeutic strategy not only in cardiovascular diseases but also in improving healthspan.

Altschmied notes that this research—along with an extensive list of over 100 studies showing the beneficial aspects of coffee consumption in helping decrease the risk of breast, colorectal, colon, endometrial, and prostate cancers, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, and mortality—overturns the assumption that the elderly should avoid caffeine. 

A security guard is seen next to a 'coffee to go' sign on the streets of Shanghai on April 17, 2018. (Photo by Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

There’s also the NIH study of over 400,000 Americans, aged 50-71, showing that coffee consumption is related to a lower risk of all-cause mortality; another multinational study of over 500,000 Europeans confirmed this finding.

Of course, everyone processes caffeine differently. Some people can drink an espresso right before bed and have no problem sleeping. If I drink coffee anytime after noon, I know I’ll have a rough night. Coffee drinkers that are slow metabolizers are more susceptible to insomnia, heart palpitations, heartburn, and irritability. Caffeine has also been shown to have a negative impact on pregnancy and fertility. There are even examples of fatal overdoses. Then again, you can overdose on water.

As with such studies, coffee is not a cure-all. Haendeler notes that drinking four or five cups of coffee a day does not give anyone’s sedentary habits a pass. Regular exercise and good diet still matter.

But so does coffee. And that’s good news for us all.

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Stay in touch with Derek on Facebook and Twitter.

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Volcanoes to power bitcoin mining in El Salvador

The first nation to make bitcoin legal tender will use geothermal energy to mine it.

Credit: Aaron Thomas via Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

In June 2021, El Salvador became the first nation in the world to make bitcoin legal tender. Soon after, President Nayib Bukele instructed a state-owned power company to provide bitcoin mining facilities with cheap, clean energy — harnessed from the country's volcanoes.

The challenge: Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, a digital form of money and a payment system. Crypto has several advantages over physical dollars and cents — it's incredibly difficult to counterfeit, and transactions are more secure — but it also has a major downside.

Crypto transactions are recorded and new coins are added into circulation through a process called mining.

Crypto mining involves computers solving incredibly difficult mathematical puzzles. It is also incredibly energy-intensive — Cambridge University researchers estimate that bitcoin mining alone consumes more electricity every year than Argentina.

Most of that electricity is generated by carbon-emitting fossil fuels. As it stands, bitcoin mining produces an estimated 36.95 megatons of CO2 annually.

A world first: On June 9, El Salvador became the first nation to make bitcoin legal tender, meaning businesses have to accept it as payment and citizens can use it to pay taxes.

Less than a day later, Bukele tweeted that he'd instructed a state-owned geothermal electric company to put together a plan to provide bitcoin mining facilities with "very cheap, 100% clean, 100% renewable, 0 emissions energy."

Geothermal electricity is produced by capturing heat from the Earth itself. In El Salvador, that heat comes from volcanoes, and an estimated two-thirds of their energy potential is currently untapped.

Why it matters: El Salvador's decision to make bitcoin legal tender could be a win for both the crypto and the nation itself.

"(W)hat it does for bitcoin is further legitimizes its status as a potential reserve asset for sovereign and super sovereign entities," Greg King, CEO of crypto asset management firm Osprey Funds, told CBS News of the legislation.

Meanwhile, El Salvador is one of the poorest nations in North America, and bitcoin miners — the people who own and operate the computers doing the mining — receive bitcoins as a reward for their efforts.

"This is going to evolve fast!"
NAYIB BUKELE

If El Salvador begins operating bitcoin mining facilities powered by clean, cheap geothermal energy, it could become a global hub for mining — and receive a much-needed economic boost in the process.

The next steps: It remains to be seen whether Salvadorans will fully embrace bitcoin — which is notoriously volatile — or continue business-as-usual with the nation's other legal tender, the U.S. dollar.

Only time will tell if Bukele's plan for volcano-powered bitcoin mining facilities comes to fruition, too — but based on the speed of things so far, we won't have to wait long to find out.

Less than three hours after tweeting about the idea, Bukele followed up with another tweet claiming that the nation's geothermal energy company had already dug a new well and was designing a "mining hub" around it.

"This is going to evolve fast!" the president promised.

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Sponsored by Pfizer
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