There is some good news for coffee drinkers! It seems that not only is there nothing better than a jolt of java to – literally – kick-start your day but it may also perhaps help you live a little longer!
A new study – the results of which were published in a report in the New England Journal of Medicine – has found that coffee can lead to a lower risk of dying from heart or respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, infections, injuries and accidents.
All music to the ears of coffee growers as it comes on the heels of an International Coffee Organization report that showed a 1.7 per cent growth in total global coffee consumption to an estimated 137.9 million bags (of 60 kg each) in 2011. This was against 135.6 million bags in 2010.
The total global annual coffee trade is valued at around $120 billion!
In the US alone, 54 per cent of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee every day.
The new study flies in the face of earlier research which found evidence that coffee can raise low density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol, and blood pressure and those in turn can raise the risk of heart disease. Besides, in the latest instance no effect was seen on cancer death risk.
The latest study – by the National Institutes of Health and AARP – was the largest ever done on the issue. It began in 1995 and involved AARP members aged 50 to 71 in California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Atlanta and Detroit.
People who already had heart disease, a stroke or cancer were not included. Neither were those at diet extremes — too many or too few calories per day.
Of the 402,260 participants, about 42,000 drank no coffee. About 15,000 drank six cups or more a day. Most people had two or three.
By 2008, about 52,000 of them had died. Compared to those who drank no coffee, men who had two or three cups a day were 10 per cent less likely to die at any age. For women, it was 13 per cent.
Even a single cup a day seemed to lower risk a little: 6 per cent in men and 5 per cent in women. The strongest effect was in women who had four or five cups a day — a 16 per cent lower risk of death.
In the study, it first seemed that coffee drinkers were more likely to die at any given time.
About 13 per cent of men and 10 per cent of women who reported not drinking any coffee on their initial surveys died between 1995 and 2008, compared to 19 per cent of men and 15 per cent of women who’d said they downed six or more cups a day.
But coffee drinkers, it turned out, also tended to smoke, drink more alcohol, eat more red meat and exercise less than non-coffee-drinkers. Once researchers took those things into account, a clear pattern emerged: Each cup of coffee per day nudged up the chances of living longer.
However, it’s unclear what ingredients in coffee could be tied to a longer life.
“We know that coffee has an effect on the brain, so it’s possible that may play a role,” said lead researcher Neal Freedman at the National Institutes of Health in Rockville, Maryland. “Or, it may have an effect on bone health.”
No one knows why. Coffee contains things that can affect health, from helpful antioxidants to tiny amounts of substances linked to cancer. The most widely studied ingredient — caffeine — didn't play a role in the new study's results.
But with so many people, more than a decade of follow-up and enough deaths to compare, "this is probably the best evidence we have" and are likely to get, said Dr. Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health. He had no role in this study but helped lead a previous one that also found coffee beneficial.
However, experts sounded a note of caution. More research needs to be done on the subject and until then people should not change their coffee habits based on the findings.
But before you contemplate hitching a ride on the joe express you would do well to remember that findings of all such studies on diet and health are empirical. This means that the results are based strictly on observing people’s habits and resulting health, no clear-cut case of cause and effect can be found.
As they say - there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip!