Coffee drinkers live longer, study shows

Take a coffee break. You owe it to yourself. Drinking a cup of coffee each day could increase your lifespan by 12%, and two or three cups a day by 18%.

That’s one possible upshot of a new study credited with being the largest of its kind, based on data about coffee-drinking habits and death rates of more than 185,000 Americans aged 45 to 75 over a period of more than 15 years.

“We cannot say drinking coffee will prolong your life but we see an association,” says the study’s lead author, Veronica Setiawan of the University of Southern California. “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 results add to the growing body of research that indicates people who drink coffee are healthier and live longer than people who don’t. Previous studies have indicated that drinking coffee is associated with reduced risk of several types of cancer, diabetes, liver disease and other chronic diseases.

It was only last year that the World Health Organisation revised its warnings against coffee and affirmed that coffee reduces the risk for liver and uterine cancer, after 25 years of labeling it a carcinogen.

This new study shows lower mortality rates were recorded for coffee drinkers across all ethnic groups in the US and, more interestingly, regardless of whether they consumed regular or decaffeinated coffee.
That suggests the health benefits of coffee lie in its complex combination of antioxidants and phenolic compounds. It is possible, also, there is some link to some still unmeasured aspect of lifestyles or dispositions of those that drink it – with the researchers adjusting their data to account for age, sex, ethnicity, smoking habits, education, pre-existing disease, vigorous physical exercise and alcohol consumption.

“Although this study does not show causation or point to what chemicals in coffee may have this elixir effect,” Setiawan says, “it is clear that coffee can be incorporated into a healthy diet and lifestyle.”

The study also provides some interesting, and statistically robust insights into the coffee-drinking habits of Americans. Just 16% of participants reported not drinking coffee, while 21% professed to irregular consumption habits, 31% drank one cup a day, 25% two to three cups per day, and 7% four or more cups a day.

The study will be published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

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