Go ahead, order that latte with a double shot of espresso. Then do it again and again. A new study shows that drinking up to six cups of coffee a day won't shorten your life span, and for women that daily coffee habit may even protect against heart disease.
The Spanish researchers who conducted the study are excited about their findings, but they stop short of prescribing coffee jolts to all. "Our results suggest that long-term, regular coffee consumption does not increase the risk of death and probably has several beneficial effects on health," said lead researcher Dr. Esther Lopez-Garcia.... Lopez-Garcia stressed that the findings may only hold true only for healthy folk. "People with any disease or condition should ask their doctor about their risk, because caffeine still has an acute effect on short-term increase of blood pressure," she said [HealthDay News].
The research team looked at over 12,000 men and women who participated in long-term health studies and completed surveys regarding their diet and lifestyle every few years. The researchers looked at the overall frequency of death among coffee drinkers, and then zoomed in on the frequency of death from heart disease and cancer.
The results show that as coffee consumption increases, the overall risk of death decreases. The association is explained mostly by a decrease in [cardiovascular disease] deaths, Lopez-Garcia says. Women who drank two to three cups of coffee a day, for instance, had a 25% lower risk of dying from heart disease than non-drinkers [USA Today]. However, the study found no association between coffee drinking and cancer deaths.
The findings, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine [subscription required], do not pin down the cause of coffee's apparent benefit, and researchers also say that the
lower risk of death did not appear to be linked to caffeine as those who drank decaffeinated coffee also had lower death rates than those who did not drink coffee [Telegraph].
But a few different theories regarding coffee's healthful qualities are percolating.
Coffee beans are chock-full of antioxidants, chemicals that can protect DNA from damage and promote cell survival. What’s more, coffee may also reduce inflammation inside the blood vessels, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease, Lopez-Garcia says [Science News].
Image: flickr/Ahmed Rabea