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Coffee Drinkers Have Lower Risk of Death



According to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2012; 366:1891-1904), older adults who drank coffee – caffeinated or decaffeinated – had a lower risk of death overall than others who did not drink coffee. The coffee drinkers were also less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections, although the association was not seen for cancer. These results from a large study of older adults were observed after adjustment for the effects of other risk factors on mortality, such as smoking and alcohol consumption. The authors caution, however, that they can’t be sure whether these associations mean that drinking coffee actually makes people live longer.


The study examined the association between coffee drinking and risk of death in 400,000 U.S. men and women ages 50 to 71 who participated in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Information about coffee intake was collected once by questionnaire at study entry in 1995-1996. The participants were followed until the date they died or Dec. 31, 2008, whichever came first. Results showed that the association between coffee and reduction in risk of death increased with the amount of coffee consumed. Relative to men and women who did not drink coffee, those who consumed three or more cups of coffee per day had approximately a 10% lower risk of death. Coffee drinking was not associated with cancer mortality among women, but there was a slight and only marginally statistically significant association of heavier coffee intake with increased risk of cancer death among men.


The investigators caution that coffee intake was assessed by self-report at a single time point and therefore might not reflect long-term patterns of intake. Also, information was not available on how the coffee was prepared (espresso, boiled, filtered, etc.). The authors considered it possible that preparation methods may affect the levels of any protective components in coffee.


According to the authors the mechanism by which coffee protects against risk of death – if indeed the finding reflects a causal relationship – is not clear, because coffee contains more than 1,000 compounds that might potentially affect health.


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