Studies Link Coffee to Lower Risk of Death

Studies Link Coffee to Lower Risk of Death

Those cups of joe are doing more than keeping you awake—they could be prolonging your life.

Coffee: You love it, you need it, and the science suggests it's actually pretty good for you. Now, two large studies published by the Annals of Internal Medicine in July 2017 bolster those claims even more. Researchers followed more than 707,000 people in the US and Europe, and discovered that coffee—both caffeinated and decaffeinated—could hold off early death.

The newest findings
The first study looked at more than half a million coffee drinkers in 10 European countries over an average of 16.4 years. Compared to non-drinkers, people who drank the most coffee had a lower risk of death for any cause. The difference was more pronounced in men than in women: 12 percent lower versus 7 percent lower.

Not only was coffee associated with reduced chances of dying, it was linked to a lower risk of death from a number of common killers, including:

  • Digestive diseases: 59 percent lower for men and 40 percent lower for women
  • Liver disease: 80 percent lower for both sexes
  • Stroke: 17 percent lower for men and 30 percent lower for women

Though they're careful to note more studies are necessary, researchers also found that coffee drinking was connected to a higher rate of cancer death in women, mostly from ovarian cancer. There's no prevailing scientific explanation for why this might be, and other studies have found no relationship.

The second study, from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, looked at more than 185,000 Americans from five different ethnic groups. It showed that drinking more than four cups of joe per day was associated with an 18 percent lower risk of death from any cause. These reduced chances were seen in four of the five ethnic groups—African American, Japanese American, Latino and white—with native Hawaiians being the only group where there was no significant association.

Not the last word (or the first)
These studies are just the latest linking drinking coffee with a lower risk of death. The European study, however, is the largest study yet to do so, while the second study adds solid evidence about coffee’s benefits to minority populations, a subject traditionally under-researched.

Both studies also have important limitations:

  • Neither can prove that coffee lowers the risk of death, only that drinking coffee and a lower risk of death are linked somehow.
  • There might be other things coffee drinkers do to extend their lives.
  • It's possible that sick people stop drinking coffee, though the studies couldn't tell.

What’s in that cup?
Despite these limitations, the benefits of your morning brew appear to be real. Other research suggests associations between drinking coffee and lower levels of inflammation and insulin resistance, as well as a reduced risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease and other chronic diseases.

Caffeine, which produces coffee’s get-up-and-go effect, has been linked to better focus and alertness, along with a lower risk of dementia, Parkinson’s, diabetes and certain cancers. Coffee also contains antioxidants, which protect your cells and may help boost your immune system.

How much should you drink?
As in most things, moderation is key when it comes to coffee. Higher doses of caffeine—more than 400 milligrams per day—could be dangerous to people who have heart trouble, and can trigger heart rhythm problems. The USDA’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines says that moderate caffeine consumption is okay, but people who don’t drink caffeine shouldn't start drinking coffee for the health benefits.

Medically reviewed in April 2018.

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