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Does coffee safeguard heart health and help you live longer

Over the past decade, Hong Kong has seen the growth of small, specialist coffee shops, big-name cafe chains and coffee bean roasters, thanks to its residents’ unquenchable enthusiasm for the drink.

The demand for coffee across Asia is predicted to increase for years to come. According to a 2021 report by Hong Kong-based market strategy consultancy Mersol & Luo, Japan leads the way, with coffee sales worth US$34.45 billion (S$47 billion) in 2020. China was Asia’s second-largest coffee market, with US$14.25 billion in sales, while South Korea was the third-largest (US$12.6 billion).

The report noted that Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau were also excellent markets, enjoying annual growth of more than five per cent.

With coffee’s rising popularity, it might come as good news that it may protect your heart. Three recent studies found that drinking two to three cups a day was associated with a 10 to 15 per cent lower risk of developing heart disease, heart failure, a heart rhythm problem, or dying for any reason. These trends held true for people with and without cardiovascular disease.

Two to three cups of coffee contain around 200mg of caffeine. The US Food and Drug Administration recommends no more than 400mg of caffeine per day – which equates to about four to five cups.

If you drink more than four cups a day, you may want to switch to decaffeinated coffee, which has about 97 per cent less caffeine than the caffeinated variety.

People who are sensitive to caffeine should avoid coffee and other caffeinated drinks altogether, because the caffeine may cause heart palpitations and leave them feeling jittery and anxious.

If you suffer from acid reflux you should switch to decaffeinated coffee because caffeine stimulates the stomach to produce gastric acid.

Be aware, too, that coffee may affect bone health – some studies have found an association between excess coffee consumption and a higher loss of calcium. Coffee beans are high in antioxidants and flavonoids – naturally occurring compounds that are said to protect our cells from damage and lower our risk of disease.

The two most common types of coffee bean available are robusta and arabica. Chong says robusta beans have a higher antioxidant content than arabica beans but contain twice the amount of caffeine.

Freshly ground and brewed coffee is preferable to the instant variety, which is heavily processed. However, bear in mind, too, that roasting coffee beans for too long or at too high a temperature can damage their antioxidants. The healthiest ways to enjoy coffee are plain (black) or with plant-based milk or low-fat cow’s milk. Chong says to skip the cream and sugary syrups, especially if you’re watching your calorie intake.

If you find black coffee too bland, it is recommended to add ground cinnamon or nutmeg for extra flavour.

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