The findings of a large study suggest that coffee consumption may modestly reduce the risk of stroke in women.

Although coffee appears to have no negative impact on the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and may even protect against type 2 diabetes, little is known about its impact on stroke risk. Now, an analysis of 83,076 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study has shed some light on the matter. The women had no history of stroke, CHD, diabetes, or cancer at baseline. Researchers documented 2,280 strokes (1,224 ischemic, 426 hemorrhagic, and 630 undetermined) in the cohort over the course of 24 years. After adjusting for age, smoking, and other factors, stroke risk among women who drank two to three cups of coffee per day was 19% lower than for women who drank less than one cup per month and 20% lower for women drinking four or more cups per day.

Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee were associated with stroke protection, but no such effects were seen for tea or caffeinated soft drinks, “supporting the hypothesis that components in coffee other than caffeine may lower the risk of stroke,” noted the authors of the study (Circulation. 2009;119:1116-1123) (subscription required).

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An unrelated meta-analysis involving 4,378 strokes suggests that drinking three cups of green or black tea per day may prevent ischemic stroke (Stroke; published online ahead of print, February 19, 2009).