If you feel guilty for having a caffeine habit that makes you reach for a cup of java within minutes of waking up, fear not. Recent studies show that in addition to enjoying various other health benefits, coffee drinkers may live longer than those who abstain.
It’s true that most of us reach for a cup of joe because we love the flavor, the aroma and the expected jolt of energy. According to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, those who drank coffee at the beginning of a 13-year study had a slightly lower risk of death than others, whether they chose decaf or full-strength caffeine.
Of the 402,260 participants, about 42,000 drank no coffee, while about 15,000 drank six cups or more a day. Most participants kept it to two or three cups a day. By 2008, about 52,000 participants had died. Compared to those who drank no coffee, men who had two or three cups a day were 10 percent less likely to die at any age, and women were 13 percent less likely to die. Even a single cup of coffee a day seemed to lower risk a little: 6 percent in men and 5 percent in women. The strongest effect was in women who had four or five cups a day, which came with a 16 percent lower risk of death.
Coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart or respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, injuries, accidents or infections. While coffee beans do contain antioxidants, coffee offered no protection against cancer. Drinking two to three cups of coffee a day lowered the overall risk of death 10 percent.
Scientists still advise coffee drinkers to take these findings with a grain of salt, as asking people about their coffee consumption only once in 13 years can be misleading, since drinking habits change. The study didn’t include vital medical information that affects longevity, such as cholesterol or blood pressure levels, preventing it from definitively proving coffee’s effect on longevity.
My caffeine habit is definitely more in check than it was during college—my four to six cups a day have been reduced to two max. In any case, it’s certainly better than drinking something like Coke (or worse, Diet Coke), which is loaded with chemicals, calories and sugar, right? So while it wouldn’t hurt to start a coffee habit (in moderation!), don’t go out and guzzle the java based on these results. You can, however, rest assured that coffee won’t cut your life short.