Drinking coffee may be linked to a lower risk of death, even with less sugar

Drinking coffee may be linked to a lower risk of death, even with less sugar

Contrary to a popular myth, quitting coffee is unlikely to improve your health. The opposite may be true: Years of research suggests that drinking coffee is associated with a lower risk of death.

The latest addition to that research group was published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study looked at about 120,000 people in the UK who regularly drank unsweetened or sugar-sweetened coffee over a seven-year period. The results indicated that those who drank 1.5 to 3.5 cups per day were less likely to die during those seven years compared to non-coffee drinkers, even if they added a teaspoon of real sugar — not an artificial sweetener — to each cup.

Overall, the results showed that people who drank unsweetened coffee were 16% to 21% less likely to die during the study period than people who didn’t drink coffee at all.

But the researchers didn’t look at causation, so they weren’t able to determine if coffee was directly responsible for the outcome.

“Biologically speaking, it makes sense that coffee actually confers some immediate health benefits,” said Dr. Christina Wei, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Wei edited the study and wrote an accompanying editorial on the findings.

But, she added, “we cannot say with certainty that it is drinking coffee per se that leads to a lower mortality risk.”

It is possible, for example, that people who drink coffee regularly are wealthier and are therefore more likely to have better health care or more time for leisure or fitness than non-coffee drinkers, which may reduce their risk of death.

A tablespoon of sugar does not cancel the benefits of coffee

Participants in the new study were about 56 years old, on average, and recruited from 2006 to 2010. The researchers took into account factors such as diet, smoking, socioeconomic status, pre-existing health problems, and exposure to air pollution.

The results indicated that people who drank sugar-sweetened coffee were 29 percent to 31 percent less likely to die than non-coffee drinkers — a slightly lower risk than was observed among people who drank unsweetened coffee, albeit in the same range.

The study did not provide conclusive results for people who drank coffee with artificial sweeteners. It also didn’t specifically look at people who added milk or cream.

Wei said the results don’t suggest it’s better to add sugar to your coffee than to drink it without sugar.

“My biggest caveat is not to equate this with ‘Oh, I can drink any kind of coffee with too many calories,’ because there are other studies that clearly show that added sugar and high levels of empty calories aren’t good for you. Just do things in moderation.”

“What this study really says is that adding a little more sugar doesn’t negate all of the potential health benefits of coffee,” Wei said.

“Harmless, maybe a little helpful”

There is a well-established relationship between drinking coffee and a lower risk of death: a 2019 analysis found that drinking two to four cups a day reduced a person’s risk of death compared to people who did not drink coffee. Another analysis suggested that drinking three to four cups a day reduced the risk of dying from heart disease compared to no coffee at all. The same research found that drinking coffee was linked to a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, chronic kidney disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.

But experts haven’t determined why coffee is linked to these benefits.

Some research has suggested that the antioxidants in coffee may reduce inflammation and reduce disease risk, but the link is not confirmed.

Other research has linked coffee to some negative health effects. A 2015 review found that drinking one to four cups a day was associated with an increased risk of blood clots, but the opposite was true among people who drank five or more cups a day. Meanwhile, a review last year found that boiled coffee was linked to increased levels of “bad” cholesterol, while filter coffee did not have the same effect. Caffeine can also raise blood pressure in the short term.

Wei said the latest research is by no means conclusive. She also noted that some of the lifestyle factors associated with drinking coffee can be unhealthy: “You work long hours and need to stay up all the time, or you’re stressed and have deadlines.”

Because of this, Wei said, “I’m more confident that we can say that drinking coffee is probably not harmful, and maybe even a little helpful.”

“If you don’t enjoy coffee, I wouldn’t force yourself to like it,” she added.

2022-05-31 22:14:15

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.