Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, and a new study suggests the more we drink it, the better. A high intake of coffee seems to slash the risk of premature death, according to researchers.

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Coffee prevents the risk of dying prematurely, particularly among elderly people, suggests new research.

A significant body of research has pointed to the health benefits of coffee. Some studies have suggested its properties may stave off diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and even some forms of cancer.

Now, a new study - presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress in Barcelona, Spain - adds to the list of coffee's potential health benefits.

The first author of the study is Dr. Adela Navarro, a cardiologist at Hospital de Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. She explains the motivation for the research, saying, "Previous studies have suggested that drinking coffee might be inversely associated with all-cause mortality, but this has not been investigated in a Mediterranean country."

Studying coffee and death risk

Dr. Navarro and colleagues examined data from the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) Project, a large, long-term prospective cohort study that started in 1999 out of the need to provide evidence for the preventive benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.

The SUN project recruited university graduates and followed them up with diet and lifestyle questionnaires every 2 years over a 10-year period.

The study carried out by Dr. Navarro and her team examined 19,896 participants from the SUN cohort who were 37.7 years old, on average, at the time of enrollment. At baseline, the participants were asked to fill in a semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire - a standard statistical tool used to assess how often certain food items are consumed and in what proportion.

In addition to their coffee intake, the participants were asked about other lifestyle factors, such as physical activity and tobacco consumption. The researchers also gathered information on the sociodemographic makeup of the participants, data on their blood samples, anthropometric measurements - such as height and body mass index (BMI) - and use of previous medication.

The researchers obtained mortality data from the National Death Index and postal authorities, as well as from the families themselves. During the 10-year follow-up period, 335 participants died.

Four cups of coffee cuts risk by 65 percent

The team used Cox regression models to adjust for potential confounding factors - such as age, sex, or adherence to the Mediterranean diet - and zoom in on the link between coffee consumption and death risk.

The study found that participants who had at least four cups of coffee every day had a 65 percent lower risk of dying from all causes, compared with those who said they never or "almost never" drank coffee.

Moreover, for every two additional cups of coffee consumed every day, the risk of premature death decreased by 25 percent.

Dr. Navarro and colleagues also found that for adults aged 45 and above, coffee seemed to have an even more positive impact, as the two additional daily cups of coffee decreased mortality risk by 30 percent in this age group.

The lead author summarizes the findings, saying:

"In the SUN project, we found an inverse association between drinking coffee and the risk of all-cause mortality, particularly in people aged 45 years and above. This may be due to a stronger protective association among older participants."

Dr. Adela Navarro

"Our findings suggest that drinking four cups of coffee each day can be part of a healthy diet in healthy people," Dr. Navarro adds.