Authors of the study, published in the prestigious JAMA Internal Medicine, gathered data on almost half a million British people and their coffee-drinking habits. They followed up with them for over 10 years and found that the risk of death from any cause, and especially from cancer and cardiovascular disease, declined as coffee consumption increased. People who drank 1 cup of coffee a day had a 6% lower risk, and people who drank 8 and more cups a day had a 14% lower risk! These results are almost counter-intuitive. Didn’t everyone think that drinking 8 cups a day is unhealthy?
Why should I trust this study?
One thing to keep in mind is that this was an observational study, not an experiment in a lab. Such a study can’t really prove causation, or in other words, we can’t be sure that coffee was really the main cause of these health benefits. However, there are a few reasons to suggest that it is likely more than a coincidence.
• Authors of this study controlled for variables that could affect health risks, like age, race, sex, alcohol consumption, smoking, etc.
• The results were similar for ground, instant, and even decaf coffee. And genetic variants that affect caffeine metabolism didn’t affect the results either.
• The relationship was linear. The more coffee people drink, the lower the risk.
• Coffee contains antioxidants and other nutrients that we know from other studies are beneficial to health.
So, should I start drinking as much coffee as possible?
Erikka Loftfield, the author of this study and a research fellow at the National Cancer Institute, said: “At this point, the study provides reassurance to coffee drinkers, not guidance. The results don’t indicate that people should begin drinking coffee for its health benefits.” It’s good to hear that scientists are reserved when it comes to results of their studies. Even though there seems to be something beneficial about coffee drinking, we can’t be sure whether it is the coffee itself, the socialization and relaxation that comes with drinking it, or something else entirely that produces the benefits. So, until we understand the mechanism better, there’s no need to go crazy.
The right reason to drink coffee
Even though this study is well-formulated and persuasive, the author herself is saying that people shouldn’t start drinking coffee because of its benefits. Coffee can also be harmful when used incorrectly. Coffee is very acidic for the stomach, and not everyone can handle 8 cups a day without issues. Also, coffee is one of the most popular tools that allow people to live on tomorrow’s energy. But if you enjoy coffee for its flavour, as a reason to slow down during a hectic day, or to meet with people you care about, then go right ahead, you’re likely doing something pretty healthy!