New Study Links Coffee Drinking and Longevity

A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto: Taso de...

Like your latte? Go ahead and make it a Grande.

A study in Wednesday’s New England Journal of Medicine  has some good news for coffee lovers. Researchers looked at whether there was a tie between coffee consumption and cause-specific death of nearly 400,000 people age 50-71 over a 14-year period.

After adjusting for several variables such as tobacco smoking, they found “significant inverse association between coffee consumption and mortality.” The rate of death went down as people drank more coffee.

Based on the research, male coffee drinkers were about 10 percent less likely to die of heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, or infections than male non-coffee drinkers. Women that drank at least several cups a day showed up to a 16 percent reduction in mortality rates compared to those that drank none.

It’s not clear yet exactly what the link is between the java and longevity, although investigators do not think it is a direct cause and effect relationship. Lead researcher Neil Freedman speculated that it could be related to coffee’s effect on the brain, or on bone health, Reuters News reported.

There may also be other variable that affected results. Caffiene is only one of about a thousand different compounds  in coffee beans – and one – or many – of these components may prove to be the key. There was also little difference found between regular and decaf — good for those that can’t tolerate caffeine.

There has been quite a media buzz about this study. Usually it’s the negative effects of coffee, and associated behaviors such as smoking and lack of exercise that makes news. (Maybe it’s because journalists drink a lot of the stuff.).

If age were the only factor in this particular study, researchers say the results would have been much different. However, by eliminating many characteristics usually found among coffee drinkers, such as more meat consumption, smoking, and lower rate of physical activity, the results were completely different. The only disease that was not affected by coffee drinking was cancer, according to the study results.

So does this mean non-coffee drinkers should start downing several cups of joe daily? Not yet. Researchers caution that more detailed, and larger investigations need to be done before anything conclusive can be determined. If you really want to live longer, improve your diet, exercise more, don’t smoke, and practice other preventive health measures.

Additionally, a number of scientists not involved in the research point to several problems with the study design. However, as Freedman told USA Today, at least people can feel a little more comfortable about coffee’s health effects while paying for that overpriced espresso.


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