Why Do People on the Greek Island of Ikaria Live So Long?

Ikaria is a Greek Island well to the southesast of Athens.  Many people on that island live past the age of 90!  Why is that so?

Well…it could be the coffee!

The European Society of Cardiology released a report August 31 about a study done by a team from the University of Athens indicating how one to two cups of coffee per day could be good for your arteries, specifically aortic distensibility.   Distensiblity is a measure of the elasticity of the arteries, and low levels have been associated with athereosclerosis and a reliable predictor of cardiovascular events.

The island of Ikaria was chosen because of the known above average life expectancy of the residents there.  The study took place during the period June to October 2009 and began with 343 men and 330 women aged 65 to 100, which group was then reduced to 235 people with a known history of hypertension and blood pressure above the normal range. Aortic distensibility of each of these 235 people were calculated non-invasively.

The research findings attribute the benefits of coffee to the polyphenolic compounds found in coffee, especially traditional Greek blends that are high in diterpenes such as cafestol and kahweol. The effect of chlorogenic acid is reported to be associated with nitric oxide, as caffeic and ferulic acids appear to improve vascular function by reducing oxidation and enhancing the bio-availability of nitric oxide. Moreover, other micronutrients, including flavonoids, magnesium, potassium, niacin and vitamin E, contribute to the observed health effects of coffee consumption, mainly because of their anti-oxidant properties.

Doctor Chrysohoou, the study coordinator summarized the findings, “The study revealed that moderate coffee consumption (between one and two cups per day) is associated with higher values of aortic distensibility when compared with other hypertensive elderly individuals taking less quantities of coffee. Adjustments were made for various factors such as age, gender, physical activity status, creatinine levels, BMI and diabetes mellitus. There was also evidence that moderate coffee consumption leads to reduced cardiovascular disease, lower prevalence of diabetes and hyperlipidaemia, lower body mass index, better renal functions and higher creatinine clearance levels. There was no evidence, however, that increasing coffee consumption to three to five cups per day would lead to further improvements in aortic distensibility.”


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