By Allison Aubrey | NPR
If you have a daily coffee habit, here’s something to buzz about: A new study finds those cups of joe may help boost longevity.
“In our study, we found people who drank three to five cups of coffee per day had about a 15 percent lower [risk of premature] mortality compared to people who didn’t drink coffee,” says one of the study authors, nutrition researcher Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health. Decaf drinkers also saw benefits.
The findings, published in the journal Circulation, build on a body of evidence linking a coffee habit to potential health benefits.
As we’ve reported, previous research has pointed to a decreased risk of stroke. And, there’s some evidence that a coffee habit cuts the risk of Type 2 diabetes, too.
Now, of course, it’s possible to overdo it with caffeine. Research has shown that consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine can interfere with sleep and create feelings of unease. And some of us are even more sensitive. (I feel jittery if I have more than one strong cup!)
One study found that 200 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent of about two cups of coffee) is an optimal amount to enhance cognitive function and mood among sleep-deprived people. But we don’t all metabolize caffeine the same way.
As we’ve reported, the caffeine amounts in coffee vary wildly. One analysis, conducted by Bruce Goldberger, found a 16-ounce cup of caffeinated coffee from Starbucks could contain anywhere from 250 milligrams to more than 500 milligrams of caffeine.
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“Not everyone reacts to coffee in the same way,” says Andrew Maynard, who studies risk assessment at Arizona State University. He summarizes the benefits documented in this study as “small.”
He says this study does not prove cause and effect between drinking coffee and living longer. Rather, it points to an association. “There are a lot of unknowns as to what [may explain] the increase in life expectancy,” Maynard says.
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Got more questions? So did we. Here’s our conversation about the findings with study co-author Walter Willett, edited for length and clarity.
So, what do you think might explain this association? In the study, you point to compounds in coffee — such as lignans, quinides and magnesium — that may help reduce insulin resistance and inflammation. Prior studies have pointed to these as well.