The National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, and the Feinberg School of medicine at Northwestern University recently analyzed coffee-drinking data from the UK Biobank, a long-term study of half a million people in the U.K. aged 38 to 74.
The Biobank is a huge sampling, many orders of magnitude larger than most scientific studies. While it doesn't involve control groups, it does track the behavior and outcomes of more than enough people to draw connections.
The results, published in JAMA Internal Medicine and summarized in Popular Science magazine, were startling. Not only do coffee drinkers live longer on average than non-coffee drinkers (that was already a well-known phenomenon) but people who drink a lot of coffee tend to live longer than people who drink moderately or sparsely.
Let's be clear on this point: What the research shows is a correlation, not a causal connection. It's possible that people drink more coffee because their lifestyle is generally more healthy, hence they live longer. Possible but not likely, though, considering the wealth of other evidence confirming that drinking coffee results in:
- A 20% reduced risk of cancer.
- A 20% reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.
- A 30% reduced risk of Parkinson's disease.
- A 5% reduced risk of heart disease.
The likelihood that "the more you drink the healthier you get" is obviously great news for those of us who might otherwise be afraid that we're drinking too much coffee. How much coffee are we talking about here? Apparently the health-giving effects of coffee pile up even when you drink as many as eight or more cups a day.
That's an entire half-gallon jug of coffee.
I don't know about you, but if I drank a half-gallon of coffee in a single day, I'd be walking around on the ceiling like a huge, flesh-colored house fly. Frankly, I get the jitters if I drink much more than two cups in a day. But here's where decaf comes in handy.
While decaf doesn't confer ALL the health benefits of the high-test, it's confers most of them. And with craft roasteries proliferating through the civilized parts of America, it's pretty easy to get super-high-quality decaf. So there's no reason to spend the rest of your (probably now longer) life suffering from the caffeine jitters.
Two words of warning, though:
- Pregnant women should avoid caffeinated coffee since unborn babies are not capable of metabolizing caffeine.
- Coffee additives--specifically sugar and creamer--negate most, if not all, of the health benefits of coffee.
Fortunately, if you buy high-quality coffee, store it correctly, and regularly clean your coffee-maker, additives are unnecessary. (Coffee is naturally sweet.)
So go ye forth and brew to your heart's content.