There is something truly magical about a cup of coffee. A cup of hot coffee 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.
Although people frequently try to limit their coffee consumption for health reasons, recent studies show us something else.
The studies involved more than 700,000 people. It was 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.
For those who don’t consume more caffeine, don’t worry – decaf seems to offer the same health benefits.
More coffee, lower risk of death
Researchers analysed data from a nutrition study that tracked more than 520,000 people from 10 European countries for an average of 16.4 years, for the larger of the two new studies. Researchers found the more coffee those participants consumed, the lower their risk of death.
The top 25 % of coffee drinkers in the study had three or more cups a day. From the participants of that group, men were 12 percent less likely to die early than comparable people who avoided coffee completely. And women who consumed a lot of coffee were 7 percent less likely to die early.
In addition to lower general risk of early death, researchers have found reduced risk of death from diseases of the digestive system and circulatory system. Interestingly, coffee consumption was also associated with a lower risk of suicide for men.
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.
It is good to mention that the 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. 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 is still possible that people who consume coffee are already healthier in some way they didn’t control for.
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.
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 as long as your daily intake is up to five cups per day, the researchers say you don’t need to worry.