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If you’re enjoying a cup of Joe with your morning paper, go ahead—have another. New research cited by The New York Times says drinking coffee may be linked with longevity, through a reduced risk of mortality from heart disease and certain other causes.
According to the Times:
“Compared with abstainers, nonsmokers who drank a cup of coffee a day had a 6 percent reduced risk of death, one to three cups an 8 percent reduced risk, three to five cups a 15 percent reduced risk, and more than five cups a 12 percent reduced risk. The association persisted after controlling for age, alcohol consumption, B.M.I. and other health and diet factors.”
While correlation does not prove causation, the study was particularly large in scope, following more than 200,000 doctors and nurses for up to 30 years, and involving periodic physical exams and food questionnaires.
Published in the journal Circulation, the study is thought to be among the first to assess heavy coffee drinking. The specific death risks allegedly reduced by heavy coffee intake include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurologic diseases (such as Parkinson’s), and suicide. A link to cancer was not established.
After the recent spate of bad news about red meat and bacon, sugar, and diet soda, it’s nice to hear of a vice that might not be so bad for us after all. But this isn’t the first time coffee has been cited for its health benefits. Coffee beans are loaded with nutrients and phytochemicals, and previous research has shown how coffee lovers enjoy a lower risk of strokes, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver diseases, and erectile dysfunction.
For those concerned about their caffeine load, the results indicate that moderate consumption doesn't make a dent. Among those drinking three to five cups a day—the amount associated with the greatest reduction in mortality—results did not vary between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee drinkers. There was equal benefit to either brew.
Alas, coffee’s benefits don't appear to extend to smokers. “Death from smoking-related causes overwhelms the positive effect of coffee drinking,” the Times added.