The People's Perspective on Medicine

How Much Coffee Should You Drink to Improve Longevity?

Health professionals have been arguing for decades about how much coffee you should drink. Some say none. Others say coffee is OK, even healthful. New research from the UK provides an answer.

Americans like their morning coffee. In some cities it seems as if there is a coffee shop on every corner. And yet our coffee consumption is paltry compared to many other countries. Not surprisingly, Scandinavia far outpaces the U.S. in per capita coffee drinking. The people of Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden drink two to three times as much coffee as citizens of the U.S. We rank 25th after Lebanon, Estonia, Spain and Portugal. New research suggests that coffee drinkers live longer than abstainers. That is the conclusion from a large study of half a million people in the UK Biobank. How much coffee should you drink for longer life?

The UK Biobank Data:

British researchers have been collecting data from 9.2 million people between 2006 and 2016. In a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine (July 2, 2018)  the investigators reported on nearly 500,000 participants. These people answered detailed questionnaires about diet, including coffee consumption, provided samples and had physical examinations. About 110,000 of these individuals did not drink coffee, while about 200,000 usually drank instant and 74,000 generally drank decaf.

How Much Coffee Should You Drink?

During 10 years of follow-up, just over 14,000 of the participants died. Those who usually consumed at least 2 cups of coffee daily were about 12 percent less likely to die from cancer or cardiovascular disease during that time. The association was strongest for coffee made using grounds rather than instant and for regular coffee rather than decaf. Nonetheless, even decaf coffee drinkers were less likely than non-coffee drinkers to die during the follow-up period.

In their own words the researchers reported:

“In this large study of nearly 500000 people in the United Kingdom, coffee drinking was inversely associated with all-cause mortality, with statistically significant inverse associations observed in participants drinking 1 to 8 or more cups per day.”

Interestingly, there was hardly any difference in mortality stats between casual coffee drinkers (one cup a day) and heavy coffee drinkers (eight or more cups daily). So the answer to the question: how much coffee should you drink? is whatever amount feels right for you.

The researchers checked to see if there were any differences in protection based on people’s genetically determined ability to metabolize caffeine. They found none: fast and slow caffeine metabolizers appeared to get the same benefits from drinking coffee. The bottom line appears to be that drinking coffee has unexpected health benefits.

Coffee Drinking and Longevity Is Not New News:

The British researchers point out that:

“Our findings are consistent with prior, large, prospective investigations of coffee drinking and all-cause mortality conducted in the United States, Europe, and Asia, as well as the most recent meta-analyses and the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report, which concluded that moderate coffee consumption can be a part of a healthy diet.”

The Naysayers Tell you To Quit Drinking Coffee

No matter how many studies are published, there are experts who will insist that you should quit drinking coffee. For them, the answer to the question how much coffee should you drink is zero. They maintain that coffee raises your stress level, increases heart rate and blood pressure and raises lipids like triglycerides and cholesterol. They throw in complications like heartburn and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) for good measure.

Oh, and let’s not forget the addiction argument. Some of the cynics maintain that coffee drinkers are drug addicts who can’t quit because of withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and fuzzy brain.

People’s Pharmacy Perspective:

We will not engage in a debate with the anti-coffee crusaders. And we would never encourage anyone who doesn’t like coffee to start drinking it. Some people with heart problems may also need to avoid the jolt from java.

But for people who love their morning cup of coffee, we say hooray! There is now enough solid scientific evidence to suggest that coffee, even decaffeinated coffee, could prolong your life. And if you can handle several cups a day without developing heartburn or insomnia, good on you.

If you would like to read some other articles we have written about coffee, hewre are some links:

Coffee Drinkers Lower Their Chances of Heart Failure

Are Coffee and Alcohol the Fountain of Youth?

Why Should You Put Cocoa in Your Coffee?

Comments welcome below. Are you a coffee person? What do you make of the latest research? Do you prefer tea? We would love to hear from you as well.

JAMA Internal Medicine , July 2, 2018

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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My mother, mother-in-law, and sister were all coffee drinkers. All three lived past 80 and all three lost at least 4 inches in height. My mother was 5’5″ in her youth and was about 5’1 before her death. My m-in-l was 5’2″ in her youth and 4’10” before she died.

My sister was 5’9″ as a young woman and is currently 5’4″ at age 81. I do not drink coffee. While I drank black tea in the first three decades of my life, I switched to herb tea in the last four decades.

I am currently 70 years old, and have lost almost two inches in height. I remain convinced that coffee increases bone loss worse than tea.

I”m not surprised to read that coffee has some health benefits, that it provides a pick-me-up, a “reward” or treat. I wish that more attention was paid to the negative effects. For some, coffee brings on severe heartburn, acid reflux, or “GERD.”

I suffered painful heartburn every night. I was afraid to keep swallowing antacids. My doctor urged me to cut way back on coffee. I did — eliminated it altogether. The heartburn happens far less frequently. I sleep better at night. I don’t have to take antacids. THOSE are health benefits I’d trade any day for a cup of coffee.

I just read an article appearing in the AMERICAN JOURNAL OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, Volume 153, Issue 4, 15 February 2001, entitled “Coffee Consumption and Serum Lipids: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials.” The paper speaks for itself, but in conclusion the authors note that coffee should be filtered prior to consumption to remove the harmful oils that appear to be causal in raising serum cholesterol levels.

I’m grateful to The People’s Pharmacy for informing readers of the benefits of a beverage that I consider to be an essential part of my day. However, I would encourage The People’s Pharmacy to include the reporting that consumers should paper-filter coffee prior to consumption.

Thank you for this update!

I would guess people want to know what is it in coffee, including decaf, that gives it the “OK to drink” seal of approval…?

What about teas that are not decaffeinated or herbal?

I notice nothing is said about coffee being ‘acidic.’ One of my doctors says coffee is not healthy because it is acidic. He also says that decaf coffee is more acidic than regular, so if one insists upon drinking coffee, drink regular.

I personally love regular dark roast coffee brewed with grounds, so am pleased I fit within the strongest positive association with coffee! I do wonder, however, if the researchers factored in the acidity difference between regular and decaf.

While I continue to enjoy drinking coffee, I no longer drink any decaf coffee per his input on acidity.

“Cups” is not a useful number. It’s how much ground coffee that one consumes that allows for comparisons. A cup of coffee can vary from 5.5 oz (original size of cups) to 12 oz. mugs which many of use today.

I consume 6 “cups–as measured by the coffee maker” and use two heaping tablespoons of grounds. How does that compare to any measures in your statistics?

I find that a few cups of coffee in the morning gets me going more easily and I feel a sense of well-being as a result. Usually I do a light morning exercise program each morning that may include Pilates, treadmill work, biking or just a long walk. In every case I feel more energy as I begin my workouts and feel it also helps me with stamina during the workouts.

This translates to better stamina throughout the day. I am age 72 and still work at my own private practice 4 days a week. I continue to work because I love being a psychologist and am very attentive to my lifestyle habits. Coffee is a part of my lifestyle that I have found to be an unquestioned benefit. I even offer it as an alternative to a bottled water to my clients when they come in.

3-4 cups a day but it needs to be fresh beans, freshly ground. Most coffee sitting on grocer shelves has long lost it benefits as an anti-oxidant. So has coffee you buy at the mainstream coffee shops like McDonalds, Starbucks, or Dunkin Donuts.

Also, dark roast has had most of its benefits destroyed because of the higher heat and longer roasting times. All coffees are not the same as far as the benefits they provide which is the same as the food we eat and the vitamins we take.

I have loved coffee since I was a teenager. However, I do my best to only drink imported coffee. I have found that there is a profound difference in my personal response to American processed coffee and coffee processed in other parts of the world.

I can drink coffee at any time of the day or night in Europe or Australia with no negative side effects, while drinking any coffee after 2pm in the US (American processed) results in insomnia.

I’d like to know how black tea compares with coffee for longevity. Are there any studies on tea and longevity?

The studies have focused mostly on green tea. Here’s one review showing that people who drink green tea are less likely to have strokes, depression, diabetes or high blood pressure:
Genetics makes a difference:

I would love to hear view points Coffee Vs Black Tea or Green Tea. UK/India/Pakistan/Afghanistan people drink Black Tea. Chinese/Japanese/Korean drink Green Tea. Thank you

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