Starbucks lovers rejoice!
Your favorite caffeinated beverage is good for more than just a quick pick-me-up, in fact, it may also lengthen your life. This, according to the results of two new studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that revealed drinking coffee can significantly lower a person’s risk of mortality.
The first study surveyed 520,000 people in 10 European countries and found a strong correlation between coffee consumption on lifespan.
Similarly, the second study – focused on nonwhite populations – surveyed 185,000 African-Americans, Native Americans, Hawaiians, Japanese-Americans, Latinos, and whites. Results found that drinking coffee increases longevity across various races.
People who drank two to four cups a day had an 18% lower risk of death compared with people who did not drink coffee, according to the study. These findings are consistent with previous studies that had looked at majority white populations, said Veronica Wendy Setiawan, associate professor of preventative medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, who led the study on nonwhite populations.
“Given these very diverse populations, all these people have different lifestyles. They have very different dietary habits and different susceptibilities — and we still find similar patterns,” Setiawan said.
The new study shows that there is a stronger biological possibility for the relationship between coffee and longevity and found that mortality was inversely related to coffee consumption for heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.
The study on European countries revealed an inverse association between coffee and liver disease, suicide in men, cancer in women, digestive diseases and circulatory diseases. Those who drank three or more cups a day had a lower risk for all-cause death than people who did not drink coffee.
According to Marc Gunter, co-author of the European study and reader in cancer epidemiology and prevention at Imperial College’s School of Public Health in the UK, researchers analyzed multiple countries where the way the population drinks and prepares coffee is quite different.
“The fact that we saw the same relationships in different countries is kind of the implication that it’s something about coffee rather than its something about the way that coffee is prepared or the way it’s drunk,” he said.
Coffee is a complex mixture of compounds, some of which have been revealed in laboratories to have biological effects, Gunter said.
Studies have shown that certain compounds have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the risk for illnesses like Parkinson’s disease.
In the European study, people who were drinking coffee tended to have lower levels of inflammation, healthier lipid profiles, and better glucose control compared with those who weren’t. It is still unclear which particular compounds provide health benefits, but Gunter said he would be interested in exploring this further.
The studies complement work that has been done on coffee and mortality, he said, and it has been reasonably documented that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of death.
With all observations from previous studies, however, it’s difficult to exclude the possibility that coffee drinkers are just healthier, to begin with, Gunter said.
People who avoid coffee, particularly in places like the US and Europe where drinking the beverage is very common, may do so because they have health problems. Their higher mortality rate could be a result of them being less healthy to begin with.
“I think that the solid conclusion is that if you’re a coffee drinker, keep drinking your coffee and be happy,” Ascherio said. And if you’re not? “I think you can go on drinking your tea or water without a problem.”
Meanwhile, Gunter and Setiawan stand a bit more firmly on coffee as a health benefit.
“The takeaway message would be that drinking a couple cups of coffee a day doesn’t do you any harm, and actually, it might be doing you some good,” Setiawan said.
So – drink up! Your guilty pleasure maybe just be adding minutes to your life.
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