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Health benefits of coffee. Are java lovers living longer?

Friday 8 June, 2012 by Emily

Of all the e-bulletins and research studies to arrive in my inbox, this one line sees my neurons light up like a Christmas tree – ‘Coffee Lovers May Live Longer'.

I had to pause mid sip – could this be the panacea I could wage my keep-cup on?

I love coffee (good coffee that is) and I confess this was the week I considered (fleetingly) that I should ‘give up' coffee...or at least alternate every other day with the yet-to-be-drunk green tea bag on my desk...until the really important morning meeting made me cave.

I eyed my coffee woefully; as a stimulant, coffee is generally not considered to be part of a healthy lifestyle.  

Could this study now condone my caffeinated ways?

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine researchers gathered data on coffee consumption from around 400,000 participants aged 50 to 71 in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study which started in 1995.

They found coffee drinking reduced the risk of most major causes of death, with the exception of cancer.

The largest reduction in risk of death was found in people who drank four to five cups a day (either caffeinated or decaffeinated).

Why this is so is inconclusive. Could it be those antioxidants?

One possible explanation was that people with chronic disease or poor health may have abstained from coffee drinking or that the study did not follow coffee consumption changes over time.

The results were also adjusted to exclude contributing factors – such as smoking. When these factors were included, the risk of death was actually increased among coffee drinkers.

As an observational study, it cannot prove that it was the coffee that helped people live longer – just that the two seem related (hence why the email said ‘coffee lovers may live longer')

This is where I sigh with the reality that I cannot start throwing coffee beans about instead of confetti. When it comes to cancer and chronic disease we won't find the quick fix in a magic bean or bulb. It's actually something far less sexy and immediate; it's about living a balanced lifestyle.

There is no magic bean. And there never will be.

But, for one day, I will leave the guilt behind and take that it ‘may' help. Tomorrow I shall moderate with my green tea bag.

Study Link: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1112010

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