Just two to three cups of coffee a day may reduce the risk of a stroke by almost 20 per cent.
A study of 83,000 women over a 24-year period showed coffee lovers were much less likely to suffer a clot on the brain.
The finding came as a surprise to scientists who had set out to investigate reports that coffee increased the risk of a stroke.
Although the study was carried out in women, it is thought any benefits would also apply to men.
But experts at the Autonomous University of Madrid stressed coffee only protects against illness in those who are healthy.
They warned patients with existing heart disease or blood pressure problems are unlikely to benefit by drinking more.
Strokes kill around 200 people every day in the UK. Many more are left disabled and living in fear that a second or even third attack could kill them.
It’s estimated to cost the NHS a staggering £2.3 billion a year to treat and look after the 100,000 people annually struck down by the life-threatening condition. Only cancer and heart disease kill more people.
Previous studies have shown coffee can protect against gout, memory loss, liver disease and even some cancers.
But it has in the past been linked with heart disease and can raise the risk of miscarriages in pregnant women.
In the latest study, experts at the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain, analysed the drinking habits of 83,000 women who were tracked for 24 years.
When they looked at how many went on to suffer a stroke, the results showed the more coffee they drank, the lower their risk.
Women who drank five to seven cups a week saw their risk lowered by 12 per cent.
In those consuming two to three cups a day, the reduction was 19 per cent and for those on four or more daily it was 20 per cent.
Researchers said it’s unlikely that the protection comes from caffeine in coffee.
Other caffeinated drinks, such as tea, did not have the same benefit but decaffeinated coffee did.
Dr. Esther Lopez-Garcia, who led the study, said something else must account for coffee’s health benefits.
“Antioxidants in coffee can lower inflammation and improve blood vessel function,” she said.
Source: The News, 20-Feb-09