Coffee is good for you

by Mark Miller July 27, 2017 4 min read

Coffee is good for you

More studies are coming out saying coffee is not bad for you and may even have beneficial effects -- up to a point. More than 5 cups a day may be bad. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Coffee is good for you. Two recent studies have shown that coffee can increase the length of the lives of those who drink it. It can be part of a healthy lifestyle. The two studies, which followed two large groups of coffee drinkers for 16 years, have shown that coffee contributes to healthful living too.

"The key message is that people can drink coffee," associate professor of preventive medicine Victoria Setiawan at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California told TODAY. "It seems there's no long-term harm."

Newsweek reports:

A study out Tuesday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who drank a cup of coffee a day were 12 percent less likely to die from cancer, stroke and diabetes as well as heart, kidney and respiratory disease than non-drinkers. And the more java, the better: People who had up to three cups a day were 18 percent less likely to perish from those conditions, according to the study. 

The research, conducted by the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, the University of Hawaii Cancer Center and the National Cancer Institute, looked specifically at about 186,000 people who were black, Native Hawaiian, white, Japanese American and Latino. But at least one researcher suggested the findings could apply to other demographics, as well.

Government funded

The U.S. federal government's National Institutes of Health financed the research program, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine and the University of Hawaii Cancer Center. The researchers used data from the Multiethnic Cohort of the NIH.

The study looked at 215,000 people age 45 to 75 who were enrolled between 1993 and 1996. The participants were asked about diet, health history, lifestyle and other personal details.

The report found that among the study subjects, those who drank more coffee tended to be younger, white, male and they drank more alcohol.

And among those who drank more coffee, more of them smoked tobacco. Just 26 percent of those who drank four cups or more per day had never smoked. In the 16 years after the study began, about 58,000 participants had died. Newsweek reports:

But after eliminating smoking and other factors, the researchers saw a surprising finding emerge: consumption of coffee -- caffeinated or decaf -- was "inversely associated with total mortality," the authors write. In other words, those coffee drinkers were living longer. Heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes: all of these occurred less often among the coffee consumers. 

Coffee may not prolong life

University of Southern California researcher and study author Dr. Setiawan cautioned that drinking coffee may not prolong one's life. But she said in a press release that if you like coffee, keep drinking it. But if you have never drunk it "then you need to consider if you should start."

Newsweek reports that coffee has a $48 billion market in the United States, 64 percent of whose citizens drink at least one cup a day. Coffee is big among older people. Americans 55 and older drink an average of four cups a day. Yet just 10 percent say they are addicted, a Gallup poll found.

An editorial in the Annals of Medicine, in which the studies were published, says it is premature to say one should drink coffee to prolong life and be healthier. This cautionary statement comes after years of claims, some made by scientists, that coffee drinking has beneficial effects.

"We are always recommending people to avoid doing things ... so I think it is very refreshing that we can tell people: If you drink coffee, don't worry about it -- it's OK," Dr. Eliseo Guallar, an author of the editorial and a professor of epidemiology and medicine at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Today.

What researchers have concluded in recent years is that coffee is not bad for you, does not cause premature death, and it may help prevent some diseases, including cancer.

3 to 5 8-ounce cups a day

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2015 to 2020 dietary guidelines says drinking three to five 8-ounce cups of coffee a day "can be incorporated into healthy eating patterns." There is "strong and consistent evidence showing that, in healthy adults, moderate coffee consumption is not associated with an increased risk of major chronic diseases (e.g. cancer) or premature death."

"Although this study does not show causation or point to what chemicals in coffee may have this 'elixir effect,' it is clear that coffee can be incorporated into a healthy diet and lifestyle," Dr. Setiawan added in the press release.

Most of the previous studies focused on white people, but these two studies included Japanese Americans, native Hawaiians, Latinos and African-Americans, all of whom have different risks and lifestyles. Including people of other ethnic groups was important so researchers could isolate similar patterns, Dr. Setiawan told Today.

Some studies show a link between healthy benefits of caffeine, but people also derive benefits from decaffeinated coffee, too, the USC study shows.

Not only did the study find no risk of early death from drinking coffee, Today says it found:

Overall, people who drank two to three cups of coffee a day had an 18 percent lower risk of dying of all causes than people who skipped coffee. In particular, coffee drinkers had a reduced risk of death from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, kidney and respiratory disease.

A second 16-year study

The other 16-year study looked at coffee consumption among 520,000 people in 10 European countries -- Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

That study "also suggested drinking more coffee was associated with lower risk for death, specifically from digestive and circulatory diseases, researchers said," Today reported.

Consuming more than 400 mg per day, or more than five cups can have adverse health effects, this study showed. So you can have too much of a good thing.

But you might as well enjoy that first or even fourth cup of coffee every day. It probably won't hurt you, and it may even help ward off disease. Especially when you combine it with regular fasting.

Mark Miller
Mark Miller


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