You might be one of the millions upon millions of people who enjoy a cup of morning coffee every day to start things off right. You may also need the mid-morning pick-me-up brew, or a coffee break with co-workers before, during or after lunch, or any other time during the day. Maybe you even enjoy a smooth cup of decaf in the evening after the long day is finished. Whether your coffee habit constitutes one drink a day or several, you are not alone in a routine that so many people find not only enjoyable but necessary to get through the day.
While coffee is an outrageously popular choice of beverage for millions, there seems to have always been some confusion about whether or not your coffee habit has a positive or negative impact on your health. For example, its high caffeine content and status as a stimulant does make it a potentially addictive substance, if consumed in excess. Pregnant mothers should not drink large amounts of coffee because their babies are not fully equipped to metabolize the caffeine. But in general, what are the benefits of drinking coffee regularly, and how do they compare? As a coffee drinker, you might be very excited to hear the answer.
Can Coffee Increase Longevity?
Despite the ongoing debate, coffee has long since been correlated with longer life and better health. (1,2) However, a new and extensive study conducted in the UK may have just broken some serious ground, measuring a factor that hasn’t been specifically weighed in the discussion of coffee and longevity: metabolism. (3)
A study done by researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute and Northwestern University using data from the UK Biobank measured the mortality of a massive study group of over 500,000 subjects over a 10 year period. Researchers analyzed the number of cups of coffee subjects consumed on average each day, using non-coffee drinkers as a reference group. The also “investigated potential effect modification by caffeine metabolism,” meaning the impact of their bodies’ ability to metabolize and utilize caffeine more or less quickly.
Researchers used what is called a hazard ratio to illustrate how much of an effect they observed the variable of coffee drinking to have on the subjects health and lifespan. In this case, a ratio of 1 would mean that there was no observable impact of coffee drinking whatsoever, while a ratio of 0.5 would indicate that coffee drinking subjects were half as likely to die as the non-drinkers. The ratios they assigned to the drinkers of 1-8 cups of coffee a day were ranged from 0.94 – 0.86. This concluded that coffee drinkers of any amount faced a 6% – 14% lower chance of death, which researchers maintain is a hugely significant figure.
The most interesting part of their findings is that they saw subjects who drank 8 plus cups of coffee a day reflect the most positive results. Most sources recommend no more than 400 mg of caffeine a day, (4) which 8 cups of coffee would exceed by about double! That’s where the factor of caffeine metabolism comes into play. Those subjects which had a higher caffeine “tolerance” (i.e., they metabolize caffeine more quickly) tended to drink much more coffee every day, and therefore, not only reaped more of the natural health benefits, but had the lowest risk of death out of any group in the study.
While we still must be careful not to overindulge in less healthy components of coffee like cream or sugars and should be mindful of our personal tolerance for caffeine, this study may yet put our nerves at ease. There’s no guilt in that morning coffee or any other serving for that matter! You’re doing yourself and your health a bigger favor than you realized with every sip you take each day.