Your morning cup of joe – or several, for that matter – could be the key to a longer life. Better yet, it does not matter whether or not your java is caffeinated or how much of it you drink, according to a decade-long study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Generally speaking, people who drank two to three cups of coffee every day had a lower risk of death than those who didn’t. The findings were true among all coffee drinkers, even those who might be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
The study followed more than half a million people in the United Kingdom between the ages of 38 and 73. Participants answered questions about their coffee-drinking habits, health history, and smoking and drinking tendencies, among other things. Over the course of the 10-year study, a little more than 14,000 people died. Overall, those who drank one cup a day had an 8 percent lower risk of premature death. That number rises to 16 percent for those who drank six to seven cups, before jumping down to 14 percent for those consuming eight or more.
The study looked at patterns in an existing dataset, so it’s hard to say whether coffee is responsible for a longer life or if it is just associated with one.
Because these health benefits were found both in people who metabolize coffee differently and those who drank decaf brew, researchers think something other than caffeine may be at play. Instead, it could be one or a combination of several of the hundreds of chemicals that make up coffee.
Coffee beans are loaded with nutrients and phytochemicals – including lignans, quinides, and magnesium – individually known as polyphenols. These 500 unique compounds are found in plants and their levels can vary depending on where the plant is grown, as well as how it’s farmed, transported, ripened, and ultimately cooked. Polyphenols are believed to be antioxidants and could combat cell damage, impact genes and gene expression (how the body responds to these polyphenols), and influence gut bacteria.
Previous studies have found coffee drinkers have a 15 percent lower risk of death and are less likely to die from respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. However, earlier studies focused primarily on health risks after the presence of such diseases were found.
Nonetheless, the researchers say coffee drinking could be a crucial part of a healthy diet.