Based on an analysis of just over half a million records at UK Biobank, people who drink two to three cups of coffee each day tend to live longer and have less cardiovascular disease compared to those who abstain from the beverage.
While the research doesn’t claim that drinking more coffee adds years to your life, it’s still an interesting connection that scientists want to investigate further. It’s also important to weigh the findings against previous studies linking brain shrinkage and an increased risk of dementia to a daily habit of six or more cups of coffee.
“In this large, observational study, ground, instant coffee and decaffeinated coffee were associated with equivalent reductions in the incidence of cardiovascular disease and death from cardiovascular disease or any cause,” says electrophysiologist Peter Kistler, of Baker Heart and. Diabetes Institute in Australia.
“The results suggest that mild to moderate intake of ground, instant and decaffeinated coffee should be considered part of a healthy lifestyle.”
UK Biobank is a large-scale database containing records of people’s genetics, health and lifestyle. In this study, the sample provided an average of 12.5 years of health and nutrition information on 449,563 individuals with a median age of 58.
Participants were grouped according to their daily coffee consumption and the type of coffee they usually drank – with just over 100,000 people reporting no coffee at all. As part of the analysis, the researchers took into account the effects of age, sex, ethnicity, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, smoking status, and tea and alcohol consumption.
From there, Kistler and his colleagues could calculate the differences in heart health outcomes and death from any cause for all coffee drinkers during the study, compared to non-coffee drinkers.
Drinking instant, ground, and even decaffeinated coffee was associated with a lower chance of death. Those who drank two or three cups of coffee a day had a better chance of living longer than those who drank none.
Researchers can only guess what might be behind the relationship. If it is the coffee itself, a wide variety of possible compounds could be responsible.
“Caffeine is the most well-known ingredient in coffee, but the beverage contains more than 100 biologically active ingredients,” says Kistler.
“It is possible that non-caffeinated compounds were responsible for the positive relationships observed between coffee consumption, cardiovascular disease and survival.”
Looking deeper, the team found that coffee consumption was also linked to the development of cardiovascular disease, with the lowest risk seen among those who consumed two to three cups a day.
There were slightly different findings for the risk of arrhythmia or abnormal heart rhythm – here ground and instant coffee, but not decaffeinated, were linked to a lower chance of the condition. Once again, just two cups each day seemed to be the sweet spot.
As much previous research has shown, coffee is a complex substance that interacts with the body in many complex ways – ways that scientists are still trying to understand. That this study covered so many people over such an extended period adds weight to the link between coffee consumption and longevity.
However, there are some limitations that need to be considered. The database records were predominantly Caucasian, making it more difficult to generalize the findings to a more ethnically diverse population. Coffee consumption was also self-reported rather than tracked, and the database does not account for changes in coffee consumption or type of coffee over time.
For now, sip that morning guilt-free – chances are it’s good for you.
“Our findings suggest that drinking moderate amounts of coffee of all types should not be discouraged, but can be enjoyed as a heart-healthy behavior,” says Kistler.
The research has been published in European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.