Will drinking coffee prolong your life?

Emerging evidence has been pointing to the protective effects that coffee can have over a person's health. This favorite beverage keeps many a student and employee perky and productive, so it is great to think that drinking it can bring other benefits, too. One of these appears to be a significantly lower death risk.

Over the past couple of years, Medical News Today have been regularly reporting on scientific studies suggesting that coffee drinkers may be reaping more benefits than they thought they were.

One study published last year, for instance, found that coffee could protect cardiovascular health, while another study, which we covered last month, suggested that this drink may help regulate blood sugar levels.

Recently, researchers have gathered at a Royal Society of Medicine roundtable in London, United Kingdom, to discuss evidence supporting coffee's beneficial effects on health. Prof. Miguel Martínez-González — from the University of Navarra in Spain — presented unpublished research suggesting that drinking coffee is associated with a reduced risk of death.

More specifically, Prof. Martínez-González has found that drinking between three and six cups of coffee per day can reduce all-cause mortality. For each two additional cups of coffee per day, the risk of death is reduced by as much as 22 percent, the researcher concludes.

The Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC) — which counts among its members six major coffee companies, including illycaffè, Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Lavazza, Nestlé, Paulig, and Tchibo — have put together a report outlining the findings presented at the roundtable session.

More coffee, lower death risk?

More than one study discussed at the Royal Society of Medicine roundtable found that drinking coffee was tied to a lower death risk.

Various meta-analyses found that coffee drinkers had up to a 17 percent lower risk of death from all causes, compared with people who did not drink coffee.

Moreover, a study conducted by researchers from the Imperial College London, in the U.K., in collaboration with IARC, concluded that, among the cohort of participants they worked with, those with the highest consumption of coffee had the lowest risk of all-cause mortality.

Additionally, research looking at the association between coffee consumption and the risk of death among non-white populations in the United States found that participants who drank one cup of coffee each day had a 12 percent lower death risk compared with non-drinkers.

When considering why coffee might be tied to more positive health outcomes, the researchers gathered at the Royal Society of Medicine roundtable suggested that caffeine alone may not have a strong enough effect.

However, the specialists argued, coffee also contains polyphenols — a type of naturally occurring substances that have an antioxidant effect, which, studies have suggested, may have anti-inflammatory properties — and may protect against stress and aging mechanisms at the cellular level.

"Data on cause of death and years lived combined with life expectancy data can be a useful way to understand the general population's health and is research frequently examined by health organisations to help inform policy to guide people towards healthier diets and lifestyles," notes Sian Porter, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association.

"The growing body of research on coffee consumption and all-cause mortality presents new data for consideration, although more evidence is needed to understand the association and mechanisms behind the results."

Sian Porter