Go ahead: reach for that extra cup of cafecito in the morning, because as it turns out, it may not be bad for you. Numerous studies abound with mixed messages about coffee’s health benefits or risks, but a new study released today by The New England Journal of Medicine says that coffee drinkers actually live longer than non-coffee drinkers.
Nearly 400,000 men and women between the ages of 50 and 71 were studied over the course of 13 years in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study, and researchers from the National Cancer Institute found that people who drank coffee had lower risk of death than those that didn’t drink the beverage. Study subjects who reported heart disease, diabetes or stroke were removed from the observational study and categories according to coffee consumption frequency, weight, cigarette smoking, ethnicity and other groups were studied.
Researchers found that risk of death decreased in correlation with coffee drinking, with metrics calculating that men who drank 6 or more cups of coffee had 10 percent lower risk of death. Women in this category had 15 percent lower risk.
“There have been many studies over the past 40 years that suggested that coffee drinking might increase heart disease or diabetes, but our goal was to figure out what coffee and the risk of death might be,” said Neal D. Freedman, Ph.D., M.P.H., study author and investigator in the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute.
“Because this was an observational study and we didn’t examine long-term consumption, we don’t know if coffee itself that was reducing risk of death,” explained Dr. Freedman, “But there could be a certain type of behavior or profile associated with drinking coffee that we couldn’t account for in our analysis.”
Dr. Freedman says that mortality rates among Hispanics looks similar to other groups and that the study results shouldn’t be generalized as the standard. “Coffee drinkers should consult with their physician as to their own disease history,” says Dr. Freedman. “And people who don’t drink coffee shouldn’t use this information as reason to begin drinking it.”
And it follows that drinking coffee – even as a beloved custom among Latinos – is a habit best practiced in moderation.
“One thing the study didn’t address was how the coffee was consumed,” commented Carmen Román-Shriver, PhD, RD, LD, Associate Professor & Director of Dietetics and Nutrition at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. “If you drink a lot of coffee and add sugar, cream, whole milk and syrups, you can be adding as much as 100 calories or more per each cup of coffee. Latinos need remember that moderation remains extremely important.”
Moderation is a point that Luis O. Rustveld, PhD, RD, LD, emphasizes as well. “We can agree that coffee may not hurt you, but the most important thing is to know that most diseases can be prevented by a healthy diet, exercise, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight,” says the assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine.
“Unless you have ulcers or have been advised by your doctor to skip the coffee, enjoy it – but in moderation.”