Coffee Drinkers Rejoice
I don’t drink coffee but do understand the combination of pleasure and habit that draws so many to this ubiquitous beverage. If you search the Amazon bookstore on coffee you return 21,947 hits. Must be important.
The health risks of coffee have always been an issue, from the minor addictive qualities to the many contradictory studies on the excess risk for nasty maladies like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. A new and massive research study may not completely lay the question to rest but it will be a source of solace for all those who can’t get going in the morning without their cup of java.
A group of epidemiologists from the National Institutes of Health studied over 400,000 men and women over a 13 year period for an association between mortality and coffee consumption. At the first level of analysis there is an increased risk of death for those who drink coffee. However, coffee drinkers are also more likely to be smokers, so once this additional risk factor is accounted for, the association between coffee consumption becomes the inverse, i.e., the high consumers are less likely to die than those who imbibe less coffee. In fact, this inverse association holds for deaths due to heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections, but not for deaths due to cancer.
The authors of the study point out that their results are observational and therefore not able to point to a cause and effect relationship or any underlying biological mechanisms. Coffee does contain hundreds of discrete chemical entities including various antioxidants, so some of these may provide a protective effect. Not caffeine, however. Surprisingly perhaps, the major stimulant in coffee is not implicated either way since decaffeinated beverage yields about the same results as the high test version.
The researchers don’t conclude with a recommendation to drink more coffee, only the wistful hope that the results may provide some measure of reassurance to those who do partake in the unavoidably modern rituals of coffee consumption.
Tom Tritton is President and CEO of CHF.