Contrary to previous research, a few cups of coffee won't kill you and in fact drinking coffee might lower your risk of dying from heart disease, a new study suggests.
Scientists have conducted numerous studies of how drinking coffee affects health in recent years. The results have yielded no consensus. Some find that coffee is beneficial because of the antioxidants in it; others find that consuming too much caffeine through coffee could kill you.
The latest study, however, focused on data from two large and well-regarded health research projects and suggests there is no negative link between coffee and mortality.
"Coffee consumption has been linked to various beneficial and detrimental health effects, but data on its relation with death were lacking," said study team leader Esther Lopez-Garcia, of the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in Spain.
Lopez-Garcia and her colleagues analyzed data from over 84,000 women who had participated in the Nurses' Health Study and almost 42,000 men who had participated in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
Study participants completed questionnaires every two to four years that included questions about how frequently they drank coffee, other diet habits, smoking habits, and health conditions. (Participants had to be free of cancer and heart disease at the beginning of the studies.)
The researchers found that women who consumed two to three cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a 25 percent lower risk of death from heart disease during the follow-up period (1980 to 2004) than women who didn't. They also had an 18 percent lower risk of death from a cause other than cancer or heart disease than non-coffee drinkers.
Men who drank the same amount of coffee had neither a higher nor lower risk of death during the follow-up period (1986 to 2004).
There was no association between coffee drinking and cancer deaths.
The relationship discovered in the study, detailed in the June 17 issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, appears to be unrelated to the caffeine in the coffee because people who drank decaf coffee also had lower death rates than people who didn't drink coffee, the authors reported.
"Coffee consumption was not associated with a higher risk of mortality in middle-aged men and women," Lopez-Garcia said. "The possibility of a modest benefit of coffee consumption on heart disease, cancer, and other causes of death needs to be further investigated."
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.