Admittedly, even when we hear how bad something is for us, it can still be difficult to give up the habit. This is why it’s hard for many to give up smoking and for others to give up junk food when they are severely obese. Even coffee had a bad rep for a while but now, a huge scientific study is giving us a reason to drink coffee regularly — even though we might not have needed one anyway.
This is not the first time coffee was identified as having health benefits. Other studies have been conducted and resulted in the suggestion that coffee helps decrease the risk of “Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, heart disease, and several types of cancer.” And now, two new studies are singling out coffee as helping people to live longer.
Now, before you go and smoke ten packs of cigarettes with your coffee…You should know that the research has only found “an association” between coffee and living a longer life. Nevertheless, researchers believe there are strong benefits to the regular drinking of coffee.
Lead author of the one of the studies and an associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, Veronica W. Setiawan, spoke about the research. “We cannot say drinking coffee will prolong your life, but we see an association," she said. Accordingly, “If you like to drink coffee, drink up!”
Let’s get down to the figures. According to the research, one cup of coffee a day was “associated with a 12 percent decrease in risk of death.” What’s interesting is that the percentage increased to 18 percent when people drank two to three cups a day. Which means if we only drink coffee for the rest of our lives, we might become immortal. Yeh, wishful thinking….
It doesn’t even matter if the coffee is regular or decaffeinated. Researchers have concluded that the benefits come from the coffee, not from the caffeine. This was a huge study. In fact, the team of researchers analyzed more than 215,000 adults between the ages of 45 to 75.
More than that, the study featured a wide range of ethnicities for the study to include people of different backgrounds and lifestyles. 17 percent of the participants were African-American while 29 percent were Japanese-Americans. 22 percent were Latinos, 25 percent whites, and seven percent Native Hawaiians.
“This study is the largest of its kind and includes minorities who have very different lifestyles,” Setiawan explains. “Seeing a similar pattern across different populations gives stronger biological backing to the argument that coffee is good for you whether you are white, African-American, Latino or Asian.” The second study was as positive as the first.
Researchers went for variety in this study because they know that people consume different brands and preparations of coffee and they wanted to prove that none of this would make a difference as long as it’s still coffee. “Ranging from filtered coffee, boiled coffee, and espresso coffee... any type of coffee consumed seems to confer these health benefits," study author Professor Elio Riboli, Head of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, explained to CBS News.
CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook also spoke about these new studies. He said that it’s not as straightforward as it may sound to recommend coffee to patients “because there are lots of different variables. For example, people who drink more coffee tend to smoke more cigarettes, so that had to be taken into account. Of course, caffeine can cause symptoms like palpitations or heartburn, so people need to be aware of that.”
It would be “premature” to prescribe coffee for health benefits LaPook said. Nevertheless, “It's becoming increasingly evident that moderate consumption can be part of a healthy diet,” he added. Accordingly, “as a doctor, it's nice to be able to say, 'enjoy'" to patients when usually, all doctors say is don’t take this or that.
Despite the positive results, the researchers behind the two studies aren’t sure what it is about coffee that is leading to these “perceived health habits.” “Coffee contains a lot of antioxidants and phenolic compounds that play an important role in cancer prevention,” Setiawan notes. Moreover, coffee has been associated with “lower markers of inflammation” and “better markers of liver function.”
Even with the positive results, researchers are not encouraging non-drinkers to take up coffee. They believe it is still “too early” to encourage people to take up the habit. And yet, it seems that “for most people drinking coffee is perfectly safe.”
In an accompanying editorial, researchers write, “Recommending coffee intake to reduce mortality or prevent chronic disease would be premature. However, it is increasingly evident that moderate coffee intake up to 3 to 5 cups per day or caffeine intake up to 400 mg/d is not associated with adverse health effects in adults and can be incorporated into a healthy diet.” Now then, time for a guilt-free cup of coffee.