Several decades ago medical research linked coffee to higher rates of heart disease and cancer.
But these findings were later shown to be flawed.
In 180-degree turnaround, the most recent research suggests that coffee has many positive health attributes and could have life extension properties.
In 2015 a group of researchers from the National Cancer Center in Tokyo recruited 90,914 healthy Japanese people aged 40 – 69 and followed them for over 18 years. During this period there were 12,874 deaths. The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
They were pretty dramatic.
3-4 Cups a Day Reduces Risk of Death By Nearly One-Fourth
The researchers found the more coffee people drank (up to a maximum of four cups), the lower their risk of death. Compared to non-drinkers, those who drank less than one cup a day had an eight percent reduced risk.
One or two cups lowered the risk by 15%, and three or four cups saw a 24% reduction in risk. Above that level, the benefits start to diminish. For those drinking more than five cups a day the risk decreased by only 15%. So apparently there is such a thing as too much.
The researchers concluded that “the habitual intake of coffee is associated with lower risk of total mortality and three leading causes of death [heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and respiratory disease] in Japan.”
One Study After Another Finds It’s True
Other research tends to confirm the Japanese findings. In August this year, two major studies were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
In the first, several research teams led by the University of Southern California tracked five ethnic groups totaling 186,000 Americans aged 45 – 75. The study lasted 16 years.
Compared to non-drinkers — and irrespective of ethnicity — those drinking a single cup of coffee a day had a 12% reduced risk of death while those drinking three cups a day lowered their risk by 18%.
And this is interesting: The results held for coffee with or without caffeine.
Study leader Dr Veronica Setiawan said, “We found that coffee drinkers had a reduced risk of death from heart disease, from cancer, from stroke, respiratory disease, diabetes and kidney disease.”
Same Conclusion Holds in Europe
In the second study, a multinational group of researchers followed 520,000 people aged 35 or more from ten European countries. Like the previous group, this one was studied for a 16-year period.
The scientists found that men drinking three cups of coffee a day had an 18% reduced risk of death. For women the figure was 8%.
According to lead researcher Dr. Marc Gunter, “We found higher coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, and specifically for circulatory diseases, and digestive diseases.
“Drinking more coffee was associated with a more favorable liver function profile and immune response.
“This [study], along with the consistency of the results with other studies in the US and Japan gives us greater confidence that coffee may have beneficial health effects.”
Death Rate Cut By Nearly Two-Thirds in The Middle Aged
In another recent study presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference in August, 19,896 participants with an average age of 37.7 were followed up for ten years. During this period there were 337 deaths.
The researchers found those that drank at least four cups of coffee a day had a 64% lower risk of dying from any cause compared to those who never or hardly ever drank coffee.
Cardiologist and lead author Dr. Adela Navarro believes that antioxidants in the form of anti-inflammatory polyphenols are most likely responsible for the effect.
These population studies cannot absolutely prove that coffee can add years to your life. But the consistent results sure make it look that way.
At this point the scientists are unable to point to what particular compounds are responsible for the “elixir effect.” But more than likely these details will be cleared up.
As a cautionary note, I’ll mention that years ago a similar “longitudinal study” involving a large population, and lasting many years, seemed to prove that coffee increased cancer risk. But then it turned out that coffee drinkers simply tended to smoke more. (This is an old study and smoking was far more common at the time.)