I've been a coffee drinker since my sophomore year of high school. Let's just say that was a long time ago. And while it's painful to admit how hard it would be for me to start the day without a nice big dose of caffeine, it turns out there's a benefit.

I hope I'm not tempting fate by saying this, but researchers at several major universities in the United States and Europe have been saying for some time that increased caffeine intake seems inexorably linked to living longer.

Now, Stanford University scientists say they may know why.

In short, as people grow older, they normally experience a "fundamental inflammatory mechanism associated with human aging and the chronic diseases that come with it," according to a university press release. And it turns out drinking more coffee might counter that natural mechanism.

The Starbucks at Stanford University will be very popular

After studying 100 people in a multiyear project, the Stanford University School of Medicine researchers concluded that caffeine could, over time, counteract the chemical reactions that trigger the inflammation. That in turn could possibly explain "why coffee drinkers tend to live longer than abstainers."

"More than 90 percent of all noncommunicable diseases of aging are associated with chronic inflammation," said the study's lead author, David Furman, PhD, a consulting associate professor at the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection.

And the weight of the scientific research is clear:

"More than 1,000 papers have provided evidence that chronic inflammation contributes to many cancers, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis and even depression," Furman added.

Doing something you enjoy might actually be good for you

Let's face it, most of the time when we hear about scientific studies and health, there's usually going to be a moral to the story, telling us to give up something we enjoy.

So let's savor this one while we can. For while he emphasized that there's only proof of a correlative link for now, not a casual one, Mark Davis, PhD, a professor of microbiology and immunology and the director of the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection, acknowledged he's just as surprised as the rest of us.

"That something many people drink -- and actually like to drink -- might have a direct benefit came as a surprise to us. ... And we've shown more rigorously, in laboratory tests, a very plausible mechanism for why this might be so," Davis said.

Next up: a scientific study that shows why drinking whiskey and wine can make you smarter and more attractive. I just need to find it, first.