Good news, coffee fans! Two new studies published on Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, have found evidence to suggest that drinking coffee can help you live longer. Well, kind of. Maybe. Actually, they’re not entirely sure.
Both studies, which surveyed over 700,000 people combined, found that people who drank coffee every day were at lower risk for a host of fatal ailments, including heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death in the U.S.
The first study looked at over 520,000 people in 10 European countries, the largest study ever of its kind, and followed the participants for sixteen years on average. They found that the top 25 percent of coffee drinkers were less likely to die during the study period than those who did not drink coffee, and concluded that “coffee drinking was associated with reduced risk for death from various causes”. After controlling for factors such as age, smoking, physical activity, and education, researchers found that drinking coffee lowered the risk of early death by 12 percent among men, and seven percent among women.
The second study focused on non-white populations in the United States. Researchers from the University of Southern California and the University of Hawaii surveyed over 185,000 African-Americans, Native Americans, Hawaiians, Japanese-Americans, Latinos, and White Americans, and found that people who drank two to four cups of coffee a day had an 18 percent lower risk of dying during the study period than those who did not.
Researchers also found that these findings held true across the various subgroups.
“Given these very diverse populations, all these people have different lifestyles. They have very different dietary habits and different susceptibilities -- and we still find similar patterns,” says Veronica Wendy Setiawan, associate professor of preventative medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, who led the study.
For those of us currently trying to manage a bad case of the caffeine shakes, and debating whether three cups of cold brew before 10 a.m. is excessive, this news is comforting. Well, if we were capable of feeling comfort instead of constant, low-grade, coffee-fueled stress. But scientists from both studies cannot say definitely whether a cup or seven of coffee in the morning will make you live longer.
Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, suggests that while coffee seems to have health benefits, scientists would need to do randomized trials to be sure.
"“It is not necessarily the coffee drinking per se, it is that fact that there are other things about your lifestyle or the lack of ill-health that might be causing the association," he told The Guardian.
Given that both studies took place in Europe and the U.S., places where coffee consumption is common, researchers also point out that people who do not drink coffee in these areas are often avoiding it for health reasons, which means their higher mortality rates could be linked to existing health conditions instead of their lack of lattes. They also caution people against interpreting these results as meaning that drinking a cup of coffee will mitigate against other unhealthy behaviors, like smoking.
In short, researchers urged people to continue doing whatever works for them.
"If people enjoy their coffee they can relax and enjoy their coffee," says Sattar.