Health and wellness

Coffee may help you live longer, even if you drink eight cups a day, new study shows

New research of half a million British adults shows that coffee drinkers were about 10 to 15 per cent less likely to die than abstainers over the course of a decade, even for those who drank over 50 cups a week

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2018, 7:46am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 July, 2018, 7:06pm

Go ahead and have that cup of coffee – maybe even several more. New research shows it may boost chances for a longer life, even for those who down at least eight cups a day.

In a study of nearly half a million British adults, coffee drinkers had a slightly lower risk of death over 10 years than abstainers. The apparent longevity boost was seen with instant, ground and decaffeinated varieties, with results echoing US research.

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It was also the first large study to suggest a benefit even in people with genetic glitches affecting how their bodies use caffeine.

Overall, coffee drinkers were about 10 to 15 per cent less likely to die than abstainers during a decade of follow-up. Differences by amount of coffee consumed and genetic variations were minimal.

The results do not prove that your coffee pot is a fountain of youth, nor are they a reason for abstainers to start drinking coffee, said Alice Lichtenstein, a nutrition expert at Tufts University in the US who was not involved in the research. But she says the results reinforce previous research and add additional reassurance for coffee drinkers.

“It’s hard to believe that something we enjoy so much could be good for us. Or at least not be bad,” Lichtenstein said.

The study was published on Monday in the journal Jama Internal Medicine.

It is not clear exactly how drinking coffee might affect longevity. Erikka Loftfield, lead author of the report and a researcher at the US National Cancer Institute, said coffee contains more than 1,000 chemical compounds including antioxidants, which help protect cells from damage.

Coffee makes you happy, it gives you something to look forward to in the morning
Adam Taylor, sound engineer

Other studies have suggested that substances in coffee may reduce inflammation and improve how the body uses insulin, which can reduce the chance of developing diabetes. Loftfield said efforts to explain the potential longevity benefit are continuing.

Adam Taylor, a sound engineer from Las Vegas on his way to fetch two iced coffees for friends in downtown Chicago on Monday, said the study results make sense.

“Coffee makes you happy, it gives you something to look forward to in the morning,” he said.

But for Taylor, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. “I try to have just one cup daily,” he said. “Otherwise I get a little hyper.”

For the study, researchers 10 years ago invited nine million British adults to take part; 498,134 women and men aged 40 to 69 agreed. The low participation rate means those involved may have been healthier than the general UK population, the researchers said.

Participants filled out questionnaires about daily coffee consumption, exercise and other habits, and received physical exams including blood tests. Most were coffee drinkers; 154,000 or almost one-third drank two to three cups daily and 10,000 drank at least eight cups daily.

During the next decade, 14,225 participants died, mostly of cancer or heart disease.

Caffeine can cause short-term increases in blood pressure, and some smaller studies have suggested that it might be linked with high blood pressure, especially in people with a genetic variation that causes them to metabolise caffeine slowly.

But coffee drinkers in the UK study did not have higher risks than non-drinkers of dying from heart disease and other blood-pressure-related causes. And when all causes of death were combined, even slow caffeine metabolisers had a longevity boost.

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As in previous studies, coffee drinkers were more likely than abstainers to drink alcohol and smoke, but the researchers took those factors into account, and coffee drinking seemed to cancel them out.

The research did not include whether participants drank coffee black or with cream and sugar. But Lichtenstein said loading coffee with extra fat and calories isn’t healthy.