The Good Life

Coffee and Longevity

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Here’s another reason to enjoy that cup of Java or three. The largest-ever study of the relationship between coffee consumption and health suggests that Zoomers who drink three cups of coffee or more daily might lower their risk of dying from common causes by at least 10 percent. The finding applies to 50- to 71-year-olds drinking either caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee. But the researchers are unclear why. They focused on the dietary habits of 400,000 people enrolled in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study between 1995 and 96. None of the participants had a history of cancer, stroke or heart disease when the study started.

They were asked about their coffee consumption, and their health was tracked through 2008. As expected, the researchers found that the regular coffee drinkers in the group were also more likely to be smokers. They ate more red meat and fewer fruits and vegetables, exercised less and drank more alcohol.

But once they controlled for those risks, the data showed that the more coffee a person consumed, the less likely he or she was to die from a number of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, infections and even injuries and accidents.

Over all, the risk of dying during the 14-year study period was about 10 percent lower for men and about 15 percent lower for women who drank anywhere from two cups to six or more cups of coffee a day.

The notable exception: it had only a marginal effect on cancer deaths. The researchers say they now need to look at the 1000 or so compounds and antioxidants in coffee to figure out which may have health benefits. The study is published online in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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