Yes, I had to do a double take when I read that headline. I enjoy my latte just as much as the next person and the idea that drinking coffee would lessen my risk for dying…well I had to investigate.
In the May edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, the largest study about coffee and its health benefits concluded that there was an inverse relationship between coffee consumption and total mortality. Between 1985 and 2008, as a part of the National Institute of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study, 230,000 men and 173,000 women participated. Ages ranged from 50-71 years and those with cancer, stroke, and heart disease were excluded.
Initially, the researchers found that coffee actually increases mortality. It was thought that those that drink coffee were probably more likely to smoke, not exercise, and eat less healthy. After adjusting for these confounders, a truly different picture emerged.
Men and women who drank 6 or more cups of coffee daily had a 10% and 15% decrease in their risk for death respectively compared with those who drank no coffee. Specifically the association was seen for deaths associated with heart disease, diabetes, respiratory illnesses, infections, injuries, and accidents but not for cancer.
So, what do we make of that data? First the study was observational meaning no direct cause and effect relationship can be totally linked. Maybe it means that if we are already nonsmokers, exercise, and eat right, that coffee probably does not have an adverse effect on our health.
I am quite hesitant to recommend 6 or more cups of coffee to my patients. It can raise blood pressure, possibly increase LDL ‘bad cholesterol’, exacerbate or even initiate cardiac arrhythmias, irritate GERD, and keep you up way past your bedtime. Having said all this, I think I’ll keep my coffee consumption about the same, exercise when I can, and try to not overindulge in too many sweets. If that helps me live longer, that’s definitely a plus.