Two studies out this week hold surprisingly positive news for people who drink two to four cups of coffee per day. Across several different lifestyles and races, one nutritional finding remains consistent: regular coffee drinkers appear to live longer. The two new studies aim to dive deeper into that data, and find out just why that is.
According to the study released this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, people who routinely drink 2 to 4 cups of coffee a day live 18% longer on average than those who do not. If we assume for simplicity’s sake that the average lifespan is about 75 years, that’s an extra 13.5 years of life that coffee drinkers enjoy over their coffee-free counterparts — certainly a significant discrepancy. In fact, the data on this seems so ironclad, that researchers noted coffee consumption even appears to mitigate a small bit of the damage done by smoking cigarettes (astonishing, considering smoking is a known and proven way to shorten your lifespan significantly).
Specifically, the way coffee appears to add years onto our statistical lives is related to its apparent preventative effect against heart disease, cancer, stroke, kidney disease, and diabetes. Those are some pretty major afflictions that coffee guards against, which explains why coffee drinkers’ mortality rates are so much more favorable. Importantly, the study also tracked coffee drinkers across several European countries — this was an effective control to ensure that the results determined by the data had nothing to do with region-specific preparations or other factors within a certain country.
So, the research appears to point strongly towards coffee’s protective qualities and enhanced lifespan — but what exactly is in coffee that has such an effect? It’s tough to say exactly, but researchers definitely have some strong theories. First of all, coffee is bursting with many, many different compounds, making it one of the more complex beverages you’re likely to encounter. Scientists are only scratching the surface of what each of these might do, but they have isolated some notable findings.
For example, one compound in coffee has an established anti-inflammatory effect, which provides protection for a whole host of illnesses and disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease. Another compound appears to improve lipid and glucose profiles, which has implications for heart disease and diabetes prevention.
Above all, however, don’t forget to think critically any time a study such as this comes out. A cornerstone of the approach we take at the Urgent 9 blog is that correlation does not equal causation. In other words, drinking coffee is linked to living a longer life, but it doesn’t necessarily directly cause you to live longer. For example, there is a possibility that people who drink coffee tend to have a more well-rounded and healthy standard of living than those who don’t. It might mean they wake up earlier, do more with their day, or have the disposable income to drink so much coffee — and therefore have access to better nutrition and standards of care in the first place.
Either way, this research is extremely promising and excellent news for anyone who’s been feeling bad about their coffee addiction lately. Of course, moderation is a good idea (don’t go drinking 8 cups a day because you think it will make you live longer), but feel free to roast away and reap the benefits!