British researchers just completed the largest study ever on the health impacts of consuming coffee and found that the drink may decrease humans’ risk of death from all causes, especially digestive and circulatory diseases.
The study — which was performed by a team from Imperial College London and the International Agency for Research on Cancer — involved 521,330 people from ten European countries, all over the age of 35, who were surveyed and interviewed about their coffee habits. Participants who drank coffee also tended to be younger, smoke, and have less healthy diets; but after the scientists adjusted for these factors, they found that the group that consumed the most coffee had a lessened risk for every cause of death than the group that did not consume any coffee.
“We found that drinking more coffee was associated with a more favourable liver function profile and immune response,” explained Dr. Marc Gunter, the study’s lead author. “This, along with the consistency of the results with other studies in the U.S. and Japan, gives us greater confidence that coffee may have beneficial health effects.”
The study is limited by the fact that it surveyed only Europeans, who are not necessarily reflective of the rest of the world. But the research’s huge sample size is a strength. Alongside previous studies — many of which have also suggested that drinking coffee can boost your health, by preventing liver scarring and slowing down the brain’s aging, for example — this research helps build evidence that drinking coffee is good for you.
So, how should you best take advantage of this?
First of all, it doesn’t matter how you like your coffee. The researchers noticed the same effects for all methods of preparation, so you should opt for whichever method is going to increase your likelihood of drinking coffee, whether you can only stand cappuccinos or only afford drip coffee.
It also doesn’t seem to matter whether or not your beverage is caffeinated. The researchers found similar outcomes for both decaf and regular coffee, though they do caution that this result may be misleading, because the participants who drank decaf may have consumed caffeinated coffee in earlier years.
Dr. Gunter is careful not to make specific recommendations about how much coffee people should drink, as more research is needed on the topic. However, he suggests that a “moderate” level — which is “up to around three cups per day” — “could have health benefits.”
Because it was the group with the highest level of consumption that experienced the lowered risk of death, the study might indicate that it’s better to drink more than just one cup. But it is definitely possible to have too much coffee if you’re drinking it caffeinated. Consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day can lead to panic attacks, heart problems, and insomnia.
So don’t go overboard, but do help yourself to a “moderate” number of cups — made in the best way, of course.