NIH: Drinking Coffee Helps You Live Longer

Wednesday, 20 Feb 2013 04:52 PM

By Nick Tate

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Drinking coffee can not only boost your energy but also your longevity. That’s the key finding of a new federal health study of nearly a half-million coffee drinkers that found those who regularly enjoy a cup of java live longer than those who don’t.
 
The National Institutes of Health study, published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, indicated that caffeinated and decaf coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections.
 
In an interview published this week in the Journal of Caffeine Research, Neal Freedman — with the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the NIH National Cancer Institute — said his study is among the most comprehensive to date of the health benefits of coffee and has significant implications for java junkies. Researchers tracked 500,000 U.S. men and women — ages 50 to 71, all members of the American Association of Retired Persons — for about 12 years.

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Not only did the results show a clear association between coffee and longevity, Freedman said, but they also indicated people who drank the most coffee tended to have greatest health benefits.
 
“What we found was that over the course of follow-up, there was an inverse association between coffee drinking and the risk of death overall and with a number of different causes as well,” said Freedman.
 
“The association was similar for men and women, and tended to get stronger as participants drank more coffee, though the result was very similar for those who drank two or three cups per day and those who drank more than that. The top category we had was six or more cups per day. And by cup, I mean a U.S. 8-ounce cup. This is what we found.”
 
For the study, Freedman and his colleagues examined questionnaires filled out by older Americans in 1995-1996, which detailed their coffee drinking habits, and then tracked the participants until the date they died or Dec. 31, 2008, whichever came first.
 
The results showed men and women who consumed three or more cups of coffee per day had about a 10 percent lower risk of death than non-drinkers from a wide variety of causes. Coffee drinking was not associated with cancer mortality among women, but there was a slight but marginally significant association of heavier coffee intake with increased risk of cancer death among men.
 
Freedman noted information was not available on how the coffee was prepared (espresso, boiled, filtered, etc.), but said it’s possible that preparation methods may affect the levels of any protective components in coffee.
 
He added that scientists don’t yet know which of the hundreds of compounds in coffee may be responsible for the health benefits the caffeine bean provides.
 
“We do not really know the mechanism of coffee's action,” he explained. “It is possible that coffee affects blood pressure, but then also many other mechanisms … might affect cardiovascular disease. We do not really have mechanistic data about the different compounds in coffee and what they do …It is possible that different compounds in the coffee are important.”

Alert: The Two Signs Your Heart Is In Trouble
 
 Jack E. James, editor of the Journal of Caffeine Research, said Freedman’s research suggests a need for additional studies to determine the culprit responsible for coffee’s health-boosting properties.
 
"Given the near-universal daily consumption of caffeine, Freedman's research underscores the urgent need for randomized controlled trials to identify which components of coffee and other caffeine beverages benefit or harm consumers, under what circumstances, and in relation to which health outcomes," he said.

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