Food & Drink

Coffee drinkers, good news – your habit is actually making you live longer

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Alex Finnis
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Is coffee bad for you? It’s a question that sits at the back of the mind of most coffee drinkers, most of whom would probably keep necking the stuff even if it was, but today there is some very good news for you, because a comprehensive study on coffee and mortality has found that coffee drinkers actually live longer.

Two studies, published on Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, were looking into coffee and longevity of life, and both found there to be a relatively clear link between the two.

The first study was a survey of more than 520,000 people across 10 European countries, and the results showed that drinking coffee could ‘significantly’ lower a person’s risk of mortality.

And the second study was a survey of 185,000 mostly non-white people – African-Americans, Native Americans, Hawaiians, Japanese-Americans, and Latinos – which discovered that the effects of coffee on longevity of life were apparent across all races.

People who drink two to four cups of coffee a day have an 18% lower risk of death, the study showed. Veronica Wendy Setiawan, an associate professor of preventative medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine, said the findings were consistent with previous studies that had focused mostly on white populations.

Start getting all this down you immediately

"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," she said.

The studies found that coffee drinkers had a reduced risk of death from a huge range of diseases – cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, respiratory disease, strokes, diabetes, digestive and circulatory diseases – and even displayed a reduced chance of death from suicide.

Marc Gunter is a reader in cancer epidemiology and prevention at Imperial College's School of Public Health in the UK, and was a co-author of the European study. He told CNN

"We looked at multiple countries across Europe, where the way the population drinks coffee and prepares coffee is quite different.

“The fact that we saw the same relationships in different countries is kind of the implication that its something about coffee rather than its something about the way that coffee is prepared or the way it's drunk.”

The studies unfortunately said nothing about pains au chocolat

So what does this all mean? Is there something in coffee which is having a positive effect on our bodies and keeping disease at bay? Well, the European study showed that coffee drinkers did tend to have lower inflammation levels, healthier lipid profiles and better glucose control.

Gunter said that the studies are comprehensive enough to reasonably state that coffee drinkers had a lower mortality risk than those who do not drink it.

However, he also added that the possibility that coffee drinkers are just healthier people in general could not be ruled out, as those who don’t drink it may be doing so because of health issues.

"I think that the solid conclusion is that if you're a coffee drinker, keep drinking your coffee and be happy," said Dr. Alberto Ascherio, professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, but if you’re not, "I think you can go on drinking your tea or water without a problem.”

Gunter and Setiawan came to similar conclusions, both suggesting that this study proves there can be no long term harm in drinking coffee.

Setiawan said: "Moderate coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy diet and lifestyle. These studies and the previous studies suggest that for a majority of people, there's no long term harm from drinking coffee."

And Gunter added: "The takeaway message would be that drinking a couple cups of coffee a day doesn't do you any harm, and actually, it might be doing you some good.”

So there it is, your scientific proof that your coffee habit is actually doing your body some good. 

(Images: iStock)

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Alex Finnis

Alex is the Editor of ShortList.com

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