Drinking more coffee is associated with a longer life, according to new research


coffee
In the “is coffee good for
you” debate, science keeps backing up the side of the coffee
lovers.

Shutterstock/Alpha_7D


There’s something truly magical about a cup of coffee.
A steaming cup in the morning can help you face the
day, a sweating glass of iced coffee will perk you up in the
afternoon heat, and a warm mug after dinner helps settle
your meal.

Yet people frequently try to limit their coffee consumption for
health reasons, fearing negative effects.

Two major studies published July 10 in the journal Annals of
Internal Medicine, however, should help assuage those fears.

The studies involved more than 700,000 people and found that the
more coffee individuals consumed, the less likely they were
to die an early death from a number of diseases including cancer,
diabetes, and heart disease.

And for those who don’t want to consume more caffeine, don’t
worry — decaf seems to offer the same health benefits.

More coffee, lower risk of death

For
the larger of the two new studies
, researchers
analyzed data from a nutrition study that tracked more than
520,000 people from 10 European countries for an average of 16.4
years. The more coffee those participants consumed, the
lower their risk of death, researchers found.

The top 25% of coffee drinkers in the study had three or more
cups a day. Among that group, men were 12% less likely to die
early than comparable people who avoided coffee completely. And
women who consumed a lot of coffee were 7% less likely to die
early.

In addition to lower general risk of early death,
researchers found reduced risk of death from diseases of the
digestive system and circulatory system. For men, coffee
consumption was also associated with a lower risk of suicide.

The
second study followed
the diet and health habits of 185,855
Americans for just over 16 years and found similar reductions
in risk of death — in this case from heart
disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, and
kidney disease. Compared to people who didn’t drink coffee
at all, people who drank two to three cups per day were 18%
less likely to die early. People who drank one cup a day were 12%
less likely to die than those who abstained.

This second study was particularly noteworthy because it focused
on American populations of different ethnicities, including
black, white, Latino, Japanese, and Hawaiian-Americans. Most
previous studies on the effects of coffee on longevity have
focused on people of European descent.

Causation versus correlation

These studies are observational, meaning they can’t establish
cause and effect — no one can say based on this data that
drinking more coffee will definitely extend your life. The
researchers tried to control for factors like diet, obesity,
and smoking status, but it’s still possible that people who
consume coffee are already healthier in some way they didn’t
control for.

However, this isn’t the first research to indicate that
coffee may improve your health. In both studies, authors noted
that previous research has found coffee consumption to
be associated with improvements in
liver function
, blood sugar levels, and inflammation.

Since decaf coffee was also associated with improved longevity,
it’s probably not the caffeine that’s responsible for these
benefits, even if that’s the reason most of us drink coffee. In
an
editorial published alongside
the studies, a group of
researchers speculated that the benefits of coffee may come from
other compounds that are extracted when the beverage is
prepared, especially antioxidant polyphenols. (Caffeine may still
have
some benefits
, though.) 

Even if we don’t know whether coffee causes this increased
longevity, these new findings suggest that people shouldn’t feel
guilty about their coffee consumption. Drinking unlimited
amounts of caffeinated coffee could eventually put you
at risk, but up until about five cups per day, the
researchers say you don’t need to worry.


Do you have an unusual story to tell? E-mail stories@tutuz.com