10 health benefits of coffee

New Research Says Coffee Drinkers Live Longer

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Coffee drinkers live longer.  Significantly longer.

While those who drink only one cup a day have a lower risk of dying, those who sip 2 or 3 cups daily get the maximum benefit, having a lower risk of death, anywhere from 6 to 18% depending on your sex, nationality, race and how much you drink each day.

Given that coffee reduces the risk of several diseases, it makes sense that coffee drinkers live longer. Researchers have shown that coffee prevents type 2 diabetes, and regular java drinkers have a significantly lower risk of developing the condition. Research has also shown that coffee protects the brain, significantly reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

Mounting Evidence On Coffee

Over the past half decade, at least three major studies have linked coffee consumption to a decreased risk of death. Each of the studies showed that coffee drinkers live longer. The first study came out in 2012. The last two studies, the EPIC study, and the MEC study were published just last month.

Data from Freedman 2012 showing coffee drinkers live longer
Coffee drinkers have a reduced risk of death. Data: Freedman 2012 from AARP Diet and Health Study

AARP Study Shows Coffee Drinkers Live Longer

The first study to show that coffee reduces the risk of death came out in 2012 when a team led by Neal D. Freedman, Ph.D. of the National Cancer Institute published a massive observational study in the New England Journal of Medicine. In performing their analysis, the authors used data from the AARP Diet and Health Study, a rich data set that includes over 402,260 subjects. All study participants were between 50 – 71 years of age at the beginning of the study in 1995. The researchers followed the participants from 1995 to 2008, noting how many cups of coffee each person drank per day. When you add up the numbers, they observed over 5 million person-years of coffee consumption and its effects on human health.

Coffee drinkers live longer because it's good for the heart
Coffee drinkers live longer because it’s good for the heart. Photo: Myriams Foto

When they completed the study, the researchers noted that 13% of the participants had died. After adjusting for tobacco-smoking status and other variables, the authors were amazed to learn that the coffee drinkers lived longer. The regular drinkers saw reductions in nearly all causes of death, except for cancer. The coffee drinkers died less often due to a variety of causes, including heart disease, infections, diabetes, stroke, and injuries.

Researchers feel that coffee protects the heart. In fact, recent research shows that coffee has many heart health benefits.

EPIC Coffee Drinkers Lived Longer  (2017)

The EPIC study surveyed more than 520,000 people in 10 European countries, making it Europe’s largest study to date on coffee and mortality. Researchers followed participants for over 16 years, during which time, over 41,000 deaths occurred. Of course, the coffee drinkers lived longer.

Compared with people who didn’t drink the beverage, the men who drank the most coffee – about three or more cups a day – had a 12% reduced risk of dying, and 7% for the women who drank the same amount. Coffee drinkers not only lived longer, but they also had healthier cholesterol, lower levels of inflammation, and better glucose control compared with those who abstained.

MEC Coffee Drinkers Lived Longer (2017)

Also published last month, a novel study discovered that it’s not just Caucasians, but minority coffee drinkers live longer, too. The Multiethnic Cohort (MEC) study focused on the coffee drinking habits of nonwhite populations. After surveying over 185,000 minorities, the researchers found these coffee drinkers lived longer also. Compared with people who did not drink coffee, those drinking 1 cup a day had a 12% reduced risk of death and those drink 2 or more cups a day had an 18% reduced risk.

Side Effects of Coffee

  • For some people, coffee’s benefits aren’t worth the side-effects. Coffee can make you jittery, give you heart burn, and cause sleep problems. Decaf is a happy compromise for those who are bothered by caffeine but still want the health benefits of coffee.
  • Coffee has adverse effects on the body, including raising blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as increasing insulin resistance.
  • Caffeine is addictive. Withdrawal symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, depression, and irritability.
  • Physicians warn women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to limit their coffee consumption. These women should consume no more than two to three cups of coffee a day.

Instant Coffee Is Different

Instant coffee differs in nutrient content when compared to brewed. A linked companion article explains the differences in the health benefits of instant coffee vs brewed.

Bottom Line

Three large observational studies show that coffee drinkers live longer. While drinking only one cup a day reduces the risk of death, gulping 2 or 3 cups daily confers the maximum benefit and studies show it lowers the risk of dying, on average, by about 10%. The reduction in rates reported by the authors varies widely, depending on many factors: male vs. female, Caucasian vs. minority, even American vs. European.

The evidence showing that coffee drinkers live longer comes from observational studies. These types of studies are considered to be weaker forms of evidence than randomized controlled trials. However, remember the oft-repeated maxim “correlation does not imply causation, but it sure is a hint.”

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References

Ming Ding, Ambika Satija, Shilpa N. Bhupathiraju, Yang Hu, Qi Sun, Jiali Han, Esther Lopez-Garcia, Walter Willett, Rob M. van Dam, Frank B. Hu; Association of Coffee Consumption With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in 3 Large Prospective Cohorts; Circulation 2015 132: 2305-2315.  Available Online.

Freedman ND, Park Y, Abnet CC, Hollenbeck AR, Sinha R. Association of coffee drinking with total and cause-specific mortality. New England Journal of Medicine. 2012;366:1891-1904 [Data from AARP Diet and Health Study]. Available Online.

Park S, Freedman ND, Haiman CA, Le Marchand L, Wilkens LR, Setiawan VW. Association of Coffee Consumption With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Nonwhite Populations. Annals of Internal Medicine [Epub ahead of print 11 July 2017] doi: 10.7326/M16-2472

Gunter MJ, Murphy N, Cross AJ, Dossus L, Dartois L, Fagherazzi G, et al. Coffee Drinking and Mortality in 10 European CountriesA Multinational Cohort Study. Annals of Internal Medicine. [Epub ahead of print 11 July 2017] doi: 10.7326/M16-2945. Available Online.

Disclaimer

1) Diagnosis, Advice, and Treatment:  This article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for the diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911, or the equivalent emergency hotline number, for all medical emergencies. As well, consult a licensed physician before changing your diet, supplement or exercise programs.  2) Photos, External Links & Endorsements: This article is not intended to endorse companies, organizations or products. Links to external websites, depiction/mention of company names or brands, are intended only for illustration and do not constitute endorsements.

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