Many of my friends who keep a filled coffee cup close by during the day are really excited about the news about a new study that suggests that people who drink coffee are more likely to live longer.
CBS News reported that the study, conducted by researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)'s National Cancer Institutes and AARP, is the largest ever done on this topic. This longitudinal study began in 1995 with 402,260 members of AARP. These participants, who were between the ages of 50 and 71, lived in California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan. The researchers excluded people who had a previous history of cancer, stroke or heart disease, as well as people who ate too many or too few calories per day.
At the beginning of the study, participations were surveyed about their coffee intake and then were grouped by their coffee consumption into three groups – those who drank no coffee; those who had between 2-3 cups each day; and a group that drank six cups or more per day. The researchers followed this group through 2008, when approximately 52,000 of the study participants had died. The researchers’ analysis found that men who drank up to three cups of coffee a day were 10 percent less likely to die at any age when compared to participants who didn’t drink coffee. The researchers also found that women who consumed up to three cups of java a day were 13 percent less likely to die at any age than women who didn’t drink coffee at all. The study also suggests that drinking one cup of coffee a day lowered the risk of death by six percent in men and five percent in women.
And what about those study participants who were hard-core coffee drinkers? It turns out that women who drink between 4-5 cups a day had a 16 percent lower risk of death. The researchers also found that while drinking coffee didn’t have an effect on cancer death risk, coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart or respiratory disease, diabetes, injuries, stroke, accidents or infection.
"Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in America, but the association between coffee consumption and risk of death has been unclear. We found coffee consumption to be associated with lower risk of death overall, and of death from a number of different causes," said Dr. Neal Freedman of the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, who served as the lead researcher. "Although we cannot infer a causal relationship between coffee drinking and lower risk of death, we believe these results do provide some reassurance that coffee drinking does not adversely affect health."
The NIH press release about this study cautioned that participants’ long-term patterns of intake may differ throughout the study because participants were asked to self-report their coffee consumption only at the beginning of the study.
The researchers also didn’t take into account how the coffee was prepared (such as espresso, boiled or filtered); however, they believe it is possible that the preparation method may actually affect the quality of coffee’s protective components.
"The mechanism by which coffee protects against risk of death — if indeed the finding reflects a causal relationship — is not clear, because coffee contains more than 1,000 compounds that might potentially affect health," Freedman said. "The most studied compound is caffeine, although our findings were similar in those who reported the majority of their coffee intake to be caffeinated or decaffeinated."
The Washington Post does throw some cold water on the happy dance currently being done by coffee drinkers. They note that researchers found that coffee drinkers often engaged in a number of unhealthy activities, including higher rates of smoking, drinking alcohol and eating red meat. Furthermore, they tended to exercise less and eat fewer servings of produce. When researchers analyzed coffee drinkers who had bad health habits, the risk of death increased. “Coffee-drinkers are actually more likely to die early because of those habits,” Washington Post reporter Sarah Kliff reported.
So what should you do? Feel free to enjoy your daily cup(s) of coffee, but be sure to do so in the context of a healthy lifestyle.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
CBS News. (2012). Two cups of coffee a day cuts overall risk of dying by 10 percent, research shows.
Kliff, Sarah. (2012). No, drinking coffee probably won’t make you live longer. Washington Post.
National Institutes of Health. (2012). NIH study finds that coffee drinkers have lower risk of death.