Health Watch: Coffee May Contribute to a Longer Life

And a happier one, too! If you need more scientific data to support your java love, read on.

Studies have shown that men and women who are drinking six or more cups of coffee a day have a 10 (for men) and 15 (for women) percent lower risk of dying at an earlier age.

Historically, doctors have noted a correlation between caffeine and an increase in bad cholesterol, high blood pressure and the risk of heart disease; however, a recent study has revealed an interesting pattern: Drinking coffee may extend the overall lifespan in already healthy individuals.

A study held from 1995 to 2008 involving the National Institutes of Health and AARP members between the ages of 50 to 71 from all over the US has given researchers a better look at the possible health benefits of coffee. They made sure to exclude people who already had heart disease, a stroke or cancer or had too many or too few calories a day.

‘By 2008 about 52,000 had died. Compared to those who drank no coffee, men who had two or three cups a day were 10 percent less likely to die at any age. For women, it was 13 percent,’ revealed the study.

Since previous studies have suggested that coffee may have a part in heart disease, this study inspired Neal Freedman, nutritional epidemiology researcher at the National Cancer Institute, to consider another contributing factor. He noted that many who were at higher risk of death were coffee drinkers and tobacco smokers, too. ‘It was only after we took into account people’s smoking that the association, the inverse association, revealed itself,’ he said. ‘Smoking has a really strong association with death.’

In the end, Freedman’s study showed that those with healthy habits who drink six or more cups of  caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee did cut the risk of dying but not to the extreme. Freedman couldn’t calculate the exact amount of extra life each cup can give you. However, he admits coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart or respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, injuries, accidents and infections. No effect was seen on cancer death risk, though.

So we’ll admit that we’ll grab that extra cup of java to increase the longevity of our lives, even if it’s only by a few percentage points, but a word of advice: More coffee does not mean you should pack on the sugar and cream.

As Dr. Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health advises, ‘Watch the sugar and cream. Extra calories and fat could negate any benefits from coffee.’

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