OBJECTIVE: To investigate the association between regular coffee consumption and the prevalence of coronary artery calcium (CAC) in a large sample of young and middle-aged asymptomatic men and women. METHODS: This cross-sectional study included 25 138 men and women (mean age 41.3 years) without clinically evident cardiovascular disease who underwent a health screening examination that included a validated food frequency questionnaire and a multidetector CT to determine CAC scores. We used robust Tobit regression analyses to estimate the CAC score ratios associated with different levels of coffee consumption compared with no coffee consumption and adjusted for potential confounders. RESULTS: The prevalence of detectable CAC (CAC score >0) was 13.4% (n=3364), including 11.3% prevalence for CAC scores 1-100 (n=2832), and 2.1% prevalence for CAC scores >100 (n=532). The mean +/-SD consumption of coffee was 1.8+/-1.5 cups/day. The multivariate-adjusted CAC score ratios (95% CIs) comparing coffee drinkers of <1, 1-<3, 3-<5, and >/=5 cups/day to non-coffee drinkers were 0.77 (0.49 to 1.19), 0.66 (0.43 to 1.02), 0.59 (0.38 to 0.93), and 0.81 (0.46 to 1.43), respectively (p for quadratic trend=0.02). The association was similar in subgroups defined by age, sex, smoking status, alcohol consumption, status of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolaemia. CONCLUSIONS: In this large sample of men and women apparently free of clinically evident cardiovascular disease, moderate coffee consumption was associated with a lower prevalence of subclinical coronary atherosclerosis.