“People who drink about three to five cups of coffee a day may be less likely to die prematurely from some illnesses than those who don’t drink or drink less coffee.” According to a new study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers and colleagues.
Normally I am interested in things that Harvard has to say: especially when it’s about coffee since I drink 2-3 cups a day myself. One thing I look at is: how many people were in the study?
In this case, they were looking at 300,000 people (mostly nurses, doctors, and health workers) over a 30 year period to find out that people who didn’t drink coffee had a higher death rate than people who do drink coffee. Well, this is an impressive number! I decided to find out: how did they make this link?
When looking at the details of the research it was found that the link was less clear when looking at the overall smoking and non-smoking population. However when focused on the non-smoking population only, thereby removing the impact of smoking, then the link between coffee and mortality became a lot clearer. Intrigued, I thought: how much of a lower death rate?
Those who drank 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day had a 15% lower death rate. Ming Ding who is a doctoral student leading this research at Harvard, said that there are already published papers linking coffee drinking with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and a lower risk of heart disease, and that this might explain the lower death rate. Having read this, I thought that perhaps the more relevant link was between coffee and heart disease and not coffee and death. What was in coffee that helped your heart?
There are a couple of ingredients in coffee: lignans and chlorogenic acid. These ingredients could reduce inflammation and help control blood sugar, both of which could help reduce the risk of heart disease. This in turn might be the reason for lower death rates from drinking coffee, but more research needs to be done to confirm this.
According to one article, “Ding and her colleagues found that coffee drinkers were about 10% less likely to die of heart disease. They were also between 9% and 37% less likely to die of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and dementia. The researchers also found that study participants who drank at least a cup of coffee a day had between 20% and 36 percent lower rates of suicide.” It seems that making the link between coffee and death is a round about way of actually saying coffee helps reduce a lot of common diseases – even though they don’t know exactly why. What’s interesting is the FDA supports this news and has announced that moderate coffee drinking can now be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle!
Of course there are skeptics. According to an article in The National Post whether you ultimately benefit from drinking coffee depends on your genes. However, this argument can be applied to all foods, and not just coffee. I prefer not to take a totally fatalistic approach saying that my genes determine my health so don’t bother leading a healthy lifestyle.
As in any research there may be questions about the reliability of the data. One question arising is that the data is based on self-reporting. And you can argue that some people may not answer accurately. Balancing this however, is the fact that a huge number of people were included in the survey and the surveys were done over a 30 year period. Were all these people lying all the time…or is there a grain of truth here?
Yes, we do need to wait for more research on the links between coffee and disease. But I for one, will now enjoy my morning coffee knowing that it not only feeds my happiness, but now possibly my health as well!
I say, celebrate life, and enjoy everything in moderation, including your coffee!
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