Scientists who have been studying seniors living on the Greek island of Ikaria — who boast the highest longevity rates in the world — have discovered a surprisingly simple dietary staple may be the secret to longer life: A daily cup of strong Greek coffee.
In a new study published in the journal Vascular Medicine, researchers with the University of Athens Medical School say the boiled Greek coffee Ikarians consumer daily contains compounds that effectively boost their cardiovascular health — a factor they believe holds key to the elderly islanders' good health.
"Boiled Greek type of coffee, which is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants and contains only a moderate amount of caffeine, seems to gather benefits compared to other coffee beverages," said Gerasimos Siasos, a medical doctor and professor at the University of Athens Medical School, who led the scientific team that identified the links between Ikarians’ coffee drinking and their longevity.
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Siasos said the researchers specifically determined coffee compounds appear to boost the health of the islanders’ blood vessels, mitigating the effects of aging and unhealthy lifestyle habits (such as smoking). The team homed in on coffee because recent studies suggest that moderate coffee consumption may reduce the risks of coronary heart disease, and may also have a positive impact on endothelial cells, which line blood vessels.
For the study, Siasos’ team tracked 71 men and 71 women aged over 65 who lived on the island permanently. Medical staff used health checks (for high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.) and questionnaires to get more detail on the participants' health, lifestyles, and coffee drinking, in addition to testing their endothelial function.
The results showed that those seniors who drank boiled, Greek coffee daily — nearly 90 percent of the study participants — had better endothelial function than those who consumed other types of coffee. Even in those with high blood pressure, boiled Greek coffee consumption was associated with improved endothelial function, without negatively affecting blood pressure.
Siasos noted only about 0.1 percent of Europeans live to be over 90, yet on the Greek island of Ikaria, the figure is 1 percent — giving islanders one of the highest longevity rates anywhere – and they tend to live out their longer lives in good health.
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