It seems that news on the positive effects of coffee never dies down. New studies are persistently giving us new info on the health benefits of coffee.
One such study tells us that drinking coffee daily may give us a longer life. Scientists from University of Hawaii Cancer Center and the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) found that folks who drank one cup of coffee every day were 12% less likely to die from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, respiratory failure and kidney disease, compared to those who did not consume coffee at all. At the same time, those who consumed 2 to 3 cups a day had 18% reduced chance of death from these illnesses.
However, researchers say these associations were not linked to caffeine, since lower mortality was present regardless of whether people consumed caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee.
Coffee is the most consumed beverage in the world after water. Every day people drink over 2.25 billion cups of coffee throughout world.
People have been drinking coffee for more than 500 years; earliest confirmation of coffee drinking dates back to 15th century Yemen.
In the U.S., more than half the population consume coffee regularly, and they drink an average of 3 cups daily.
Previous studies have shown that coffee can be good for improving liver health and preventing cancer.
However, most of those studies focused on Caucasian people, so the researchers in the new study decided to investigate the effect of coffee on people of other races.
In this study, hailed as the largest study to investigate the link between drinking coffee and longer life, the researchers surveyed more than 185,000 people from different races and ethnicity – African-Americans, Hawaiians, Native Americans, Latinos, Japanese-Americans, and Whites. Participants were aged between 45 and 75 years at study baseline. All these adults were followed-up for 16 years.
“This study is the largest of its kind and includes minorities who have very different lifestyles,” says Veronica Wendy Setiawan, associate professor of preventative medicine at Keck School of Medicine.
“Seeing a similar pattern across different populations gives stronger biological backing to the argument that coffee is good for you whether you are white, African-American, Latino or Asian.”
All participants were required to complete questionnaires describing their diet, which included information on frequency of their coffee drinking and the type of coffee (caffeinated or decaffeinated). They also gave information on medical history and lifestyle for themselves and their family.
Among the participants, 16% reported never or rarely drinking coffee, 31% said they drank one cup daily, 25% reported consuming 2 to 3 cups per day, while 7% said they drank at least 4 cups daily. The remaining 21% of the participants had irregular coffee drinking habits.
During the 16-year follow-up period, 58,397 people died. The leading cause of death were cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The researchers discovered that the adults who drank one cup of coffee each day had a 12% lower risk of death from heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke, kidney disease, and diabetes, compared with those who rarely or never consumed coffee.
They also found that risk of mortality from these diseases was 18% lower for participants who consumed 3 cups of coffee daily.
The type of coffee the participants drank (caffeinated or decaffeinated) didn’t seem to impact the findings, and the results remained the same even after the scientists accounted for various confounding factors such as sex, age, alcohol intake, and smoking status.
Drinking coffee daily and having a longer life was observed across the four different races included in the study: white Americans, African-Americans, Latin-Americans, and Japanese-Americans. Therefore, the researchers are convinced that the findings will appertain to other populations as well.
“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,” says Setiawan.
Although the study failed to establish a causal relationship between drinking coffee daily and having a longer life, researchers say the findings show that the perks of coffee drinking may outweigh the risks.
Coffee contains thousands of biologically active compounds, including antioxidants and phenolic compounds, and according to Setiawan, no one really knows which ones define the protective link.
“Although this study does not show causation or point to what chemicals in coffee may have this ‘elixir effect,’ it is clear that coffee can be incorporated into a healthy diet and lifestyle,” she says.
“Some people worry drinking coffee can be bad for you because it might increase the risk of heart disease, stunt growth, or lead to stomach ulcers and heartburn. But research on coffee has mostly shown no harm to people’s health.”
The team, however, note that folks should still be cautious when drinking coffee or any other hot beverages; they point to a 2016 report from the World Health Organization (WHO) that showed consuming very hot beverages increases the risk of esophageal cancer.
Further studies are called for in order to understand how drinking coffee might give us a longer life. Meanwhile, the team say that we should continue enjoying our daily cup of Joe, because it could do us a world of good.
Dr. Eliseo Guallar, one of the authors of the accompanying editorial, and professor of epidemiology and medicine at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, describes coffee drinking as a “complex behavior.” He says people should watch out for the amount of cream and sugar they put in the coffee, because these can add calories and fats. Coffee drinking is safe, but it must be kept in the setting of healthy eating habits, he says.
So, if you’re a regular coffee drinker, don’t let the results thrill you yet, Setiawan and colleagues conclude:
“We cannot say drinking coffee will prolong your life, but we see an association. If you like to drink coffee, drink up! If you’re not a coffee drinker, then you need to consider if you should start.”
The study was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
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