Can Drinking Coffee Help You Live Longer?

The largest study of its kind finds a relationship between coffee consumption and lower risk of death.

By: Melissa Romero

Whether you're a coffee lover or not, this news may be all the extra boost you'll need this morning.

In the largest study of its kind, involving 400,000 men and women, researchers have found that coffee drinkers tend to live longer than those who abstain.

Yes, past research has gone back and forth on the purported benefits and risks of coffee. From its apparent ability to prevent type 2 diabetes to its acidic nature that can make heartburn worse, coffee's status as a healthy drink has been in flux over the years. However, this study's large population currently makes it the best evidence that coffee is indeed associated with lower risk of death.

For the study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and the AARP, 229,199 men and 173,141 women ages 50 to 71 were followed from 1995 to 2008. Those with cancer, heart disease, and stroke were excluded from the study.

During the study period, 52,515 people died. In this case, the risk of death was higher among coffee drinkers. However, researchers noted that java drinkers were more likely to smoke, eat red meat, and exercise less. Once those factors were accounted for, researchers determined there was a significant inverse association between coffee consumption and mortality. In particular, men who drank two or three cups were 10 percent less likely to die over the course of the study. For women, it was 13 percent. Men and women who drank as much as six cups a day were 10 and 15 percent less likely to die compared to non-coffee drinkers, respectively. It didn't matter whether the coffee was caffeinated.

The researchers also found that coffee consumption was associated with lower risk of developing heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, and infections.

Still, while the results are promising, researchers note that the data does not determine a causal relationship between drinking coffee and living longer. The results do show, however, that the two appear to be related in some way. So don't feel too guilty about having that extra cup in the afternoon--just hold the heavy cream and extra sugar.

The study is available through the New England Journal of Medicine's website