Drink Coffee, Live Longer

Another scientific study has come out with the ultimate health benefit of drinking coffee, drink coffee and live longer. The journal Circulation published an article, Association of Coffee Consumption with total and Cause-Specific Mortality in Three Large Prospective Cohorts. This long and complicated title simply means that a lot of people were studied for cause of death. For decades the Harvard School of Public Health has enrolled and followed up on graduates in the health professions.

  • Nurses’ Health Study: 74,890 (women)
  • Nurses’ Health Study II: 93,054 (women)
  • Health Professionals Follow-up Study: 40557 (men)

Over the years people enrolled in this study reported how much coffee they drank and when someone died the cause of death was recorded in the study. Over 4,690,072 person years (# of people x # of years) 19,524 women and 12,432 men died. The results of the study showed that people who drank between one and five cups of coffee a day had a lower risk of dying that those who did not drink any coffee.

  • One cup a day: 6% lower risk of death
  • Up to three cups a day: 8% lower risk of death
  • Three to five cups a day: 15% lower risk of death
  • More than 5 cups a day: 12% lower risk of death

It made little difference if people drank regular or decaf and the study controlled for age, drinking alcohol and other health and diet factors. The bottom line is that if you are a coffee drinker you have a lower risk of death from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, neurologic diseases and suicide. The study did not show a lower risk of dying from cancer.

If you find it difficult to understand what they say in Circulation there is a more readable version of these finding in The New York Times, Coffee Tied to Lower Risk of Dying.

But Not for Smokers

The bad news for smokers is that people in the study who smoked did not live longer if they drank coffee. The researchers believe that the many health related effects of smoking simply overwhelmed any beneficial effects of drinking coffee.

Is it the Antioxidants?

The researchers do not speculate on why coffee drinkers live longer, providing that they don’t smoke. However, there are two factors that have been identified as beneficial in coffee. One is the caffeine and the other is the antioxidants. The fact that both decaf and regular coffee helped reduce the incidence of death makes this author think that it is the antioxidants in both regular and healthy organic coffee that make the difference.

Scientifically an antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits the cell damage and cell death in human cells caused by oxidative breakdown of other molecule in the cell. Oxidation is a factor in sickness and aging. Antioxidants help prevent the damage caused by excessive oxidation and to a degree inhibit the aging process. When an oxidative reaction brought on by disease gets going it produces free radicals that start chain reactions which in turn cause cell and tissue damage. The human body has or uses antioxidants to control this situation. Natural means of controlling oxidation include vitamins C and E as well as glutathione. It is low levels of antioxidants that can lead to a condition referred to as oxidative stress and resultant damage to cells in the body.

More research will be necessary to see just what that allows you to drink coffee and live longer but that appears to be the bottom line from the recent study.

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