Coffee is one of the healthiest beverages on the planet.
It contains hundreds of different compounds, some of which offer important health benefits.
Several large studies have shown that people who drank moderate amounts of coffee were less likely to die during the study period.
You may wonder whether this means that you’ll live longer if you drink a lot of coffee.
This short review tells you if drinking coffee can extend your life.
A Major Source of Antioxidants
When hot water runs through coffee grounds while brewing, the natural chemical compounds in the beans mix with the water and become part of the drink.
Many of these compounds are antioxidants that protect against oxidative stress in your body caused by damaging free radicals.
Oxidation is believed to be one of the mechanisms behind aging and common, serious conditions like cancer and heart disease.
Coffee happens to be the biggest source of antioxidants in the Western diet — outranking both fruits and vegetables combined
This doesn’t necessarily mean that coffee is richer in antioxidants than all fruits and vegetables, but rather that coffee intake is so common that it contributes more to people’s antioxidant intake on average.
When you’re treating yourself to a cup of coffee, you’re not only getting caffeine but many other beneficial compounds, including powerful antioxidants.
Coffee’s link to lower risk of death and the role of sweeteners
“Studies suggest coffee may protect the heart and aid in treating other diseases,” Liu told Healthline.
However, previous research surrounding the health benefits of drinking coffee did not examine whether specific sweetener use in coffee had any influence on health outcomes.
Liu said her team’s goal was to see how this might affect the results of their research.
The study was set up as a prospective cohort study, meaning that they would place people in groups who were similar to each other in every way except how they took their coffee. Then, they would follow them over time to see how they fared.
They obtained their data from the UK Biobank. This database includes about a half a million people who have volunteered to make their medical and genetic information available to researchers.
Altogether, 171,616 people who did not have cardiovascular disease or cancer at the start of the study were included. The average age of the study participants was 55.6 years. These people were followed beginning in 2009 and ending in 2018.
During the study, people reported their consumption of coffee and whether they used sugar, artificial sweeteners, or no sweetener at all.
“Adults who drank sugar-sweetened coffee added only one teaspoon of sugar on average,” said Liu.
The research team estimated deaths due to all causes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
After analyzing the gathered data, the researchers found a U-shaped association between how much coffee was drank and risk for death.
People with a moderate level of consumption did better than those who had less or more.
The study authors did caution, however, that the data is around ten years old. Also, it is from a country where tea is a very popular drink, which could potentially have affected the outcome.
They further noted that the people in the study used much less sugar than what is found in many chain coffee shops’ drinks. This makes it difficult to make comparisons between the study participants and people who get their coffee from outlets like Starbuck’s.
Recommendations for coffee drinking
Mary Mosquera Cochran, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, noted that moderate coffee consumption, which she defined as two to five cups per day, has previously been associated with many positive health effects.
These include decreased risks for stroke, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, colon cancer, liver cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and, according to recent research, drinking coffee may also reduce the risk of acute kidney injury.
Cochran said, based on the research by Liu’s team and other studies, it appears that coffee consumption is linked to increased lifespan. It can’t be said for certain that one causes the other, she noted, but this study does support that view.
Cochran also noted she found it interesting that moderate sugar intake with coffee (1.5 to 3.5 teaspoons per day) did not reduce the health benefits. She also found it interesting that the result with artificial sweeteners was inconclusive.
“As with all observational studies,” she said, “it can be hard to really separate out the influence of the other factors that can affect health, as well as the fact that they didn’t observe changes in coffee intake over time, which can also affect outcomes.”
When asked about specific recommendations for coffee drinking, Cochran said, “As long as you don’t experience any negative side effects, moderate coffee intake may be a great way to protect against many chronic diseases and increase longevity.”
She suggests that if you find coffee to be too stimulating, you may still want to drink decaf coffee since it’s thought that the antioxidants found in it confer many of its health benefits.
“Also keep in mind,” said Cochran, “participants in this study that did add sugar to their coffee didn’t add more than one teaspoon to each cup. So, it is likely a better idea to stick with simple coffee drinks where you control the amount of added sugar and avoid artificial sweeteners.”
Liu’s conclusions were similar to Cochran’s.
“Based on the findings, we can tell people that there is no need for most coffee drinkers to eliminate the beverage from their diet, but to be cautious about higher-calorie specialty coffees,” she said.