Coffee May Help Drinkers Live Longer, U.S. Study Suggests

Coffee, caffeinated or decaffeinated, may help extend the lives of people who drink it daily, a U.S. study found.

Men who drank 2 to 3 cups a day had a 10 percent chance of outliving those who drank no coffee, while women had a 13 percent advantage, according to research published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study by researchers at the National Cancer Institute is the largest to compare coffee drinkers with those who avoid it to determine whether the beverage can delay the risk of dying from ailments such as heart disease, diabetes or respiratory illness, said Neal Freedman, the lead study author. It’s unclear why coffee may be beneficial and more research is needed to study that question, he said.

The results “offer a little bit of reassurance to coffee drinkers who like drinking coffee that it won’t affect health,” said Freedman, an investigator at the NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics in Rockville, Maryland, in a May 14 telephone interview. “It doesn’t seem to increase one’s risk of dying.”

Still, “the association between coffee and mortality has been unclear,” he said. “This is an observational study so we don’t know for certain coffee is having a cause and effect.”

Americans drank 77.4 billion cups of coffee valued at $35.8 billion in the 12 months ended June 30, 2011, according to a Sept. 7 statement by the research firm StudyLogic. About 64 percent of U.S. adults drink coffee every day and 73 percent drink it weekly, according to the New York-based National Coffee Association. Americans consume about 3.2 cups of coffee a day, the group said.

National Survey
The researchers looked at more than 402,000 men and women who were part of the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study and were 50 to 71 years old at the start of the trial. Coffee consumption was assessed one time when the patients entered the trial. Those with cancer, heart disease and stroke were excluded.

From 1995 to 2008, 33,731 men and 18,784 women died.

The study found that men who drank 2 to 3 cups a day had a 14 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease, 17 percent lower risk of dying from respiratory disease, 16 percent decreased chance of dying from stroke and a 25 percent lower risk of dying from diabetes than those who drank no coffee.

Women’s Results
Women who consumed 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day had a 15 percent lower chance of dying from heart disease, 21 percent lower risk of dying from respiratory disease, 7 percent decreased chance of dying from stroke and a 23 percent lower risk of dying from diabetes.

In most cases, drinking six or more cups a coffee a day for men and women lowered the risk even further, the study showed.

Coffee wasn’t associated with a lower risk of dying from cancer in women. In men who drank the most coffee, there was a slightly higher chance of dying from cancer, the research reported.

The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, may not reflect long-term patterns of coffee consumption and information on how the coffee was prepared also wasn’t included in the research.

Freedman said there are more than 1,000 compounds of coffee that may affect health. More studies are needed on the compounds and the effects coffee has on the death risk in people with a previous history of disease.