The public perception of coffee exists in a continuous state of flux. Just as soon as you hear about its purported health benefits, such as helping your heart and memory, you hear concern of how caffeine may be a detriment to your heart – which is rather conflicting. And while it’s true that consuming caffeine in excess will do you no favours (especially if you’re under 18, pregnant or have a heart condition), the benefits of coffee are well and truly stacking up.
Two new studies, both published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, examined the coffee consumption of large and diverse groups of people, giving us a fantastic indication of how it can affect each and every one of us.
The first study monitored coffee consumption in over 185,000 people among different ethnic groups within Hawaii and Los Angeles, aged between 45 and 75 years with an average follow up time of over 16 years. After adjusting for smoking and other potential confounders, the researchers found that coffee drinkers had a lower total mortality compared to those who didn’t drink it all, with two to three cups a day having a greater reduction in the risk of death compared to drinking one (18% vs 12%).
In the largest study of its kind, the second study examined the coffee consumption of over 521,000 people across ten European countries for, again, an average of just over 16 years of follow up. The results of the previous study were echoed across this study, with people who drink three or more cups a day found having an 18% lower risk of death in men and 8% lower risk in women, compared to those who don’t drink coffee (although there was an increased correlation with ovarian cancer mortality in women).
Although these results look pretty categoric, and the researchers tried to limit as many potential confounders as possible, for example, smoking, physical activity, pre-existing diseases, it should be noted that coffee may not necessarily be the reason behind these findings. The coffee drinkers may have been healthier in other ways, for example, as well as the studies observing caffeinated and decaffeinated coffees equally.
Co-author of one of the studies, Marc Gunter, from the International Agency for Research on Cancer stated: “I wouldn’t recommend people start rushing out drinking lots of coffee, but I think what it does suggests is drinking coffee certainly does you no harm… It can be part of a healthy diet.”
While the researchers concede that further randomised studies are needed, these results are promising to herald some conclusive information on the health benefits of coffee. It’s true that drinking coffee won’t outweigh other “bad” aspects of your diet or lifestyle, but reaching for your second or third cup shouldn’t be accompanied with feelings of guilt – it may actually do you good.
Wishing you the best of health,
Editorial Health Researcher