Still Life with Coffee Pot and Melon

Long Live the Coffee Drinkers

JAMA Internal Medicine this week is serving up a reason for coffee drinkers to feel good about their habit. In a large prospective study, researchers found that even heavy coffee drinkers tend to live a bit longer than non-drinkers. This finding includes people who drink up to eight cups a day. Researchers found up to a 16% smaller hazard for death in coffee drinkers. In addition, caffeine didn’t seem to be much of an issue.

A Large Prospective Study

Sample size is a strength of this study. Researchers prospectively studied nearly half a million individuals in the UK Biobank. The had data on a wide range of self-reported coffee consumption in many different forms. They also had data on genetic profiles relevant to caffeine metabolism.

These data are consistent with prior studies that showed people who drink coffee tend to live a bit longer. But they go a little further. Prior studies only covered moderate coffee consumption. On top of those prior studies, this one adds perspective on heavier coffee drinkers.

Correlation, Not Causality

Despite the large dataset, we still must remember that this study is observational. The authors speculate that active substances in coffee – other than caffeine – might explain the lower mortality in coffee drinkers.

However, it’s important to remember that drinking coffee is a pleasurable ritual. So many factors come into play with this observation to confound us. What else is different about coffee drinkers? As much as researchers try to adjust for other factors, 100% certainty is not possible.

And thus, we are left with a simple bottom line. Coffee drinking is A-OK for your health.

Click here for the study and here for more from NPR.

Still Life with Coffee Pot and Melon, painting by Roger de La Fresnaye / WikiArt

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


July 6, 2018