We spoke to The Heart Foundation's dietitian Shane Landon to unpack the truth about coffee and red wine.
While 'all things in moderation' has been a fairly consistent message from medical practitioners, this age old diet advice can at times seem a little stale. Especially in the light of recent health headlines that champion the benefits of cappuccinos or a daily glass or two of red at dinner.
“A healthy diet – made up of core foods, with a focus on fruits and vegetables – is one that we would generally recommend for everybody,” says Landon.
Various studies have argued that elements in the make up of red wine are indeed good for heart health.
According to a 2014 studyof 10,000 patients in France, Cardiologist Dr William McCrea found the antioxidants in wine reduced the risk of a second heart attack by half. Dr McCrea prescribes two glasses per day, and even has recommendations for the best vintages with highest antioxidant content. He goes as far as to say the cheaper screw-top bottles are best.
Other studies have heralded coffee – suggesting that a few cups of java per day is good for us. A recent study of young adultsin Korea found that, compared with people who don’t drink coffee, those who drank three to five coffees per day had a lower risk of having calcium deposits ion their coronary arteries, which is an indicator of heart disease.
For Landon though, the evidence isn’t quite conclusive – yet.
“That was an interesting study, but it was just one study,” he says in relation to the Korean survey. “I haven’t seen anything else in support of that study, so it’s hard to say how generalised this could be. That’s not to say that in time we might understand better, and that perhaps coffee might have a bigger role to play in the prevention of heart disease.”
As for red wine, Landon says “there is an antioxidant in red wine, and so there is a bit of interest in its potential.” But Landon suggests snacking on blueberries, strawberries, and coloured vegetables to up your antioxidant count.
“We know people are being told to drink wine because it is good for heart health, but we haven’t seen any compelling evidence to support that.”
While no more than two glasses per day is generally accepted, NHMRC approved advice, Landon also suggests checking the size of your standard pour.
“Alcohol is easily over consumed. It’s a high energy drink, so when you think about the energy content of foods, fat is the most energy dense at 37 kilojoules per gram, but then alcohol comes in next at 29.”
Most studies conducted on the pros and cons of wine and coffee tend to relate to its effect on reducing atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty plaques in the blood vessels and arteries, which can lead to cardiovascular issues).
So whether two glasses of red wine and five coffees a day will ultimately keep atherosclerosis at bay – there is yet to be supported by any especially conclusive research.
“Evidence tells us time and again that diets that are rich in fruits and vegetables are better for us," adds Landon. "Populations that follow those sorts of diets by and large have better health outcomes, and can reduce the risk of lifestyle conditions like heart disease.