The Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: General Health, Food and Nutrition
Last Reviewed 03/06/2014

The Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee

We’ve long worried about the downsides of coffee. But new research indicates that the health benefits of drinking coffee can even lengthen your life.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) teamed up to study the relationship between the health benefits of drinking coffee and survival. They studied 173,141 women and 229,119 men for 13 years. All were between 50-71 years of age and in good health. They excluded anyone with a history of stroke, heart disease or cancer. After adjusting for variables like smoking, they found that the more coffee people drank, the longer they lived. 

The health benefits of drinking a single cup of coffee a day conferred a 5 percent lower risk of dying for women and 6 percent for men. But the greatest risk reduction was among those drinking 4 or 5 cups a day: 16 percent for women and 12 percent for men. Yet, for those downing 6 cups or more, the risk reduction waned. But still: 4 or 5 cups of daily java may be more than most of us would care to consume. It’s certainly more than I can comfortably recommend.

The Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee

Why is coffee such a fountain of youth? It’s rich in bioactive polyphenols–over 1,000 separate compounds—which could impact health and longevity through a variety of intracellular reactions that promote optimum functioning. Also, those health benefits of drinking coffee were noted whether participants drank regular or decaffeinated coffee, so the caffeine I’ve been cautioning you about for years didn’t confer any protection.

So, what’s the bottom line? While this news makes me feel better about my morning coffee fix, I continue to recommend that you limit caffeine to the equivalent of one or two cups of coffee per day. 

At doses of less than 200 mg daily, you’ll be less likely to develop a dependence on caffeine while still benefiting from some of its favorable psychoactive and psychological effects. Yet, if you have a cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension, anxiety or panic disorder, or if you’re trying to conceive, you’re better off switching to caffeine-free products. 

Other Important Factors To Keep in Mind

  • Opt for organic coffee to limit your exposure to pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers.

  • Avoid milkshake-type designer coffees, (like lattes), which are rich in sugar and calories.

  • Sidestep artificial coffee creamers that are high in trans fats.

  • Remember that “decaf” doesn’t mean “caffeine-free.” In order to be labeled “decaf” a coffee must be at least 97.5 percent caffeine free but can still contains 2-4 mg of caffeine on average. 

  • Caffeine is also in those energy drinks you may be grabbing, so read labels carefully.

Now, it’s your turn: How many cups of coffee do you drink?

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