An earthy, caffeinated coffee drink may have more power than getting you up in the morning.
A new study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, shows that drinking sweetened or unsweetened coffee is associated with a lower risk of death than not drinking it.
Researchers surveyed 171,616 UK participants up to five times over the course of a year about their lifestyle, including their coffee drinking habits. Then the scientists looked for death certificates to see who died after an average of seven years.
Participants ranged in age from 37 to 73 and reported that they had no cardiovascular disease or cancer at the time of the survey.
The results showed that for people who drank a moderate amount of coffee, defined as 1.5 to 3.5 cups a day, those who sweetened their coffee had a 30% lower risk of death compared to non-coffee drinkers, according to Dr. Christina Wei, associate professor of medicine. Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the study. She is also the deputy editor of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
She added that unsweetened coffee drinkers had a 16% to 29% lower risk of death compared to non-coffee drinkers.
Results were adjusted for sociodemographic, lifestyle, and clinical factors to eliminate their effects on outcomes. For example, the research team asked questions about smoking level, amount of physical activity, education level and dietary habits, Wei said.
She said there was a limit to researchers’ adjustments because they did not ask about other factors that could influence the results, such as income level and occupation.
Pay attention to added sugar
If you’ve been drinking a latte loaded with sugar and caramel macchiatos, you’re out of luck.
According to the study, the average coffee drinker who reported that they sweetened their coffee put in on average one teaspoon.
“If you’re adding about 1 teaspoon of sugar to your coffee, the coffee benefits we think are not completely negated by a teaspoon,” Wei said.
The results for people who used an artificial sweetener in their coffee were less clear, so the researchers couldn’t draw any conclusions for people who preferred sugar alternatives.
“Based on this study, clinicians can tell their patients that there is no need for most coffee drinkers to eliminate the beverage from their diet but that caution should be exercised about higher-calorie coffees,” senior study author Dr. Dan Liu said in an email. She is from the Department of Epidemiology at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China.
How does coffee affect the body?
Previous research has shown that coffee can protect the heart and help treat other diseases, Liu said. A 2021 study said it may also reduce the risk of liver disease.
Coffee also has different health profiles, depending on how it is produced, said Gunter Konnell, professor of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Reading in the UK. He did not participate in the study.
Some species contain phenolic compounds that are believed to be beneficial, he said.
These chemical compounds affect the flavor and aroma of coffee and are valuable because they can act as antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties.
The two most common types of coffee are Arabica and Robusta, and research has shown that Robusta coffee has a higher phenolic content than Arabica coffee.
Unroasted green coffee beans contain high levels of phenolic compounds, but the weak aroma when brewed leads people to roast them. Depending on the level of roasting, some phenolic compounds can degrade.
Depending on how the coffee is brewed, coffee can contain high levels of diterpenes, which are chemical compounds that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, Conley said.
Boiled coffee and French Press coffee contain some of the highest amounts of diterpene, according to a 2016 study.
Mocha and espresso coffees contained a moderate amount of diterpene, while instant coffee or filter coffee had the lowest.