In a very large study involving over 400,000 men and women over 13 years, those who drank more coffee were found to live longer. (NEJM May 17, 2012, pp.1891-1904)

Subjects were aged 50-71 at baseline. Compared with men who drank no coffee, the incidence of death was 6% less in men who drank one cup of coffee daily, 10% less in those who drank 2-3 cups daily, and 12% less in those who drank 4-5 cups daily.

In women, those who drank one cup of coffee daily had a 5% lower risk of death compared with those who drank no coffee. Risk reduction was 13% in women who drank 2-3 cups daily, and 16% in those who drank 4-5 cups daily.

The reduction held for deaths due to heart disease, lung disease, stroke, diabetes, injuries, accidents and infections, but not for deaths due to cancer. The protective pattern held equally for caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.

It seems that the more coffee you drink the longer you will live. This positive effect contrasts with the effect of caffeine on raising blood pressure temporarily, and increasing low density (LDL) cholesterol. Coffee contains many chemical compounds, some of which may offer protection against disease, including antioxidants such as polyphenols.

The authors offered few explanations for their findings, but the results were statistically highly significant. Coffee connoisseurs should be reassured.

Despite this article, I do not recommend that everyone have half a dozen cups of coffee daily. Many people have symptoms that are caused or exacerbated by drinking coffee, including palpitations, anxiety, insomnia and heartburn. Coffee may elevate blood pressure for 2-3 hours after drinking a cup. Some coffee shop preparations are full of sugar and cream, adding hundreds of calories.

Try to get organic coffee, and if you drink coffee after 12 noon, use decaffeinated only.

Allan Sosin, MD

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