Some days, a friend will show up with a cup of coffee for me and I will mutter the words, “You are a live saver.” Little did I know that coffee could literally save my life, or at least make it last longer!
A new study is adding to the growing evidence that coffee has protective health benefits and it suggests that it could reduce the risk of dying from heart disease or other chronic illnesses.
The study, published Monday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, researchers examined a large sample of U.S. adults’ coffee drinking habits. They discovered that those who drank less than five cups of coffee per day had lower risks of deaths from cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, suicide and neurological diseases, according to CBS News.
Interestingly, the effects were seen in both caffeinated and decaf coffee drinkers. Therefore, health benefits do not just stem from caffeine but possibly from chemical compounds in coffee beans.
The study’s first author and doctoral student at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Ming Ding said that past “studies show that the chemical compounds in coffee beans reduce insulin resistance and systematic inflammation.” “This may account for the inverse association between coffee and mortality.”
Ding analyzed data along with her team on three huge ongoing studies with almost 168,000 women and more than 40,000 men. And those people were asked about their coffee drinking habits every four years for almost 30 years. “I think this is a major strength of our study. We followed a lot of participants for a long period of time.”
During the follow-up period of time, 12,432 men died and 19,524 women died of various causes.
According to CNN, participants who drank less than a cup and three cups per day had 5 percent to 9 percent lower risk of dying than those who did not drink coffee. And those who drank more than three cups did not see any benefit. So the finding didn’t seem clear.
However, the relationship became clearer when they looked at coffee habits among those who said they never smoked. Those who drank less than one cup a day and three cups a day had a 6 percent to 8 percent lower risk of dying than non-coffee drinkers. And those who drank three to five cups and more than five cups had 15 percent and 12 percent lower death rates.
But, Alice H. Lichtenstein, Director and Senior Scientist at the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University and spokesperson for the AHA told CBS News that “associations are not proof of causation. However, the data on the topic have been very consistent over the years.”
The researchers also stress that highly caffeinated drinks aren’t for everyone and certain people, like pregnant women and children, should limit their intake. Also, they added that ingredients put in coffee, like cream and sugar, are not beneficial.
“If people use a lot of sugar and cream, particularly if they decide on the basis of these findings to have an extra cup or two of coffee per day, they are adding calories in the form we do not recommend,” Lichtenstein said. “In that case they should consider ramping down slowly, either decreasing the amount of sugar they add or shifting to a non-nutrient sweetening, and gradually shifting from cream to lower fat milk, or using less.”