Can Drinking Coffee Improve Longevity?
Drinking Coffee to Live Longer
While everyone is still searching for that fountain of youth, it appears that perhaps they should be searching for the nearest coffee urn instead. While there is no conclusive evidence that coffee contains any magical properties, evidence is pointing in the right direction.
When it comes to coffee, there seems to be two schools of thought: A) Coffee is good for you and B) Coffee will kill you. And those two thoughts seem to go back and forth each year. Fortunately, the experts are learning toward the healthier of the two options these days. So much so that some are claiming that people can extend their lives by simply drinking a few cups of coffee a day.
Two Studies, Similar Results
Dr. Donald Hensrud from the Mayo Clinic is a fan of the two coffee studies that were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2017. The goal of the studies were to detail the coffee drinking habits (among other things) of about a half a million people from ten European countries.
One of the studies came to the conclusion that those who drank coffee of any amount had a reduced risk of dying from various diseases while the other one showed that there was a lower death risk in African-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Latinos and Caucasians who drank coffee.
“There is a common belief that coffee is not healthy,” says Dr. Hensrud. “There are side effects from coffee that may limit consumption in some people, including insomnia; gastroesophageal reflux disease; urinary symptoms, such as frequency and urgency; nervousness and anxiety if consuming too much; and others. However, from a health standpoint, these two studies are consistent with many other studies that show overall health benefits. There is fairly good evidence that coffee is associated with decreased risk of liver disease and liver cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Type 2 diabetes, and even improved mood and decreased risk of depression.”
What We Know
In recent years, researchers have found that coffee is by and large one of the best beverages one can consume. This theory comes from studies that show coffee contains many antioxidants. For many people, coffee is one of largest sources of antioxidants and actually outranks fruits and vegetables.
However, this information is somewhat misleading and confusing. While coffee contains a lot of antioxidants, coffee isn’t richer in antioxidants of all fruits and vegetables. It just means that a lot of people drink coffee and for some of them, they get the bulk of their antioxidants from the beverage instead of fruits and vegetables.
Either way, antioxidants are known to help protect people from oxidative stress in one’s body. This stress come by from damaging free radicals and many experts believe that oxidation is one the culprits to aging and diseases like cancer.
We also know that coffee drinkers are less likely to die from infections, injuries, accidents, respiratory disease, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Coffee drinkers also have a lower risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes and liver diseases.
An Extra Cup is All You Need
Coffee drinkers tend to have a lower risk of death is what researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer and Imperial College London have concluded. The findings were particularly positive for heart disease and diseases of the stomach. This is after they analyzed the behavior of a half million people over the age of 35.
One professor from the University of Cambridge, Sir David Spiegelhalter, claims that by just consuming one extra cup of coffee a day could potentially extend a man’s life by about three months, but just one month for women. It’s not a lot of extra life, but it is something.
Any Coffee Will Do
People tend to think that the caffeine in coffee is magic ingredient that is bestowing this “extra life” but that isn’t the case. These studies have shown that everyone can benefit regardless of how much and what type of coffee one drinks. Caffeinated, filtered, instant and decaffeinated coffees all had the same effects.
“We observed an inverse association for coffee drinking with mortality, including among participants who reported drinking at least one cup per day, up to eight or more cups per day, as well as those drinking filtered, instant and decaffeinated coffee,” said Dr. Erikka Loftfield, the study’s lead investigator.
Compared to people who don’t drink any coffee at all, those who drank just one cup of coffee each day were found to have an 8% lower risk of premature death. The more people drank, the better their life expectancy. Those who drank six or seven cups of java were found to have 16% lower risk of premature death. However, the numbers began to go down somewhat (14%) for those drinking eight or more cups each day.
Not Conclusive but Still Promising
With this huge number of people being tested, this would appear to be good news for fans of coffee, but as Smitha Mundasad from BBC points out, the tests conducted are not perfect. These studies could not take into account every factor of one’s life.
“For example, it did not look at how much coffee drinkers earned in comparison with non-coffee drinkers,” says Mundasad. “It might be that people who drank three cups of coffee a day spent more time socializing and that in turn may have boosted their wellbeing.”
As it turns out, researchers asked their participants to fill out questionnaires, undergo physical examinations and provide some biological samples. In addition to questions regarding their consumption of coffee, the people were asked about their smoking and drinking habits as well as their health history. Researchers continued to follow up with their participants for the next ten years. The studies did however exclude those who had diabetes, heart attacks or strokes. About 14,200 people from the 500,000 participants died within the 10-year follow-up period.
So, where did these studies fall short? They were observational studies which are hard to control.
“The most rigorous scientific way to be certain that coffee could make you live longer would be to force thousands of people all over the world to drink it regularly while preventing many thousands of otherwise similar people from ever drinking coffee,” explains Mundasad. Those same scientist who then have to watch these people on every other aspect of their livelihood including what they ate, drank, how much sleep they got, if they exercised etc. “That’s a study that is never likely to take place.”
Some critics of the studies also point out that it is nearly impossible to say for sure if coffee is the special ingredient in extending one’s life or if coffee drinkers have more healthy habits.
Other Good News
But if an extended life from drinking coffee isn’t enough, other recent studies have been conducted showing the benefits of coffee drinking including one that claims coffee might reduce inflammation. Other studies suggest that coffee can also improve how one’s body uses insulin which in turn can help decrease the odds of one developing diabetes.
The Bottom Line
While none of these studies are conclusive, they should bring some relief from coffee-lovers who have been fearing that drinking their java might somehow be harming them. And to that we say, drink up!
BBC – https://www.bbc.com/news/health-40567047
Healthline – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-coffee-makes-you-live-longer#bottom-line
Time – https://time.com/5326420/coffee-longevity-study/
CNBC – https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/03/drinking-coffee-could-help-you-live-longer-study-says.html
Mayo Clinic – https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/does-coffee-help-you-live-longer/