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Study of More Than 400,000 Men and Women Links Coffee With a Lower Risk of Death

May 16, 2012 -- Whatever you call it -- joe, java, mud -- it is likely a key way to jump-start your day, and now new research suggests it may also help you live longer.

The study, described as the largest of its kind, found that coffee drinkers had a lower risk of death from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, accidents and injuries, diabetes, and infections, but not from cancer. Researchers observed these results after accounting for the effects of other risk factors for dying, such as smoking and drinking alcohol.

The scientists examined the connection between drinking coffee and death among more than 400,000 men and women in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. Participants lived in six scattered states and the Atlanta and Detroit metropolitan areas. At the beginning of the study, they were 50 to 71 years old and had not had cancer, heart disease, or stroke.

Between 1995 and 1996, the men and women completed a comprehensive questionnaire assessing their diet and lifestyle. Nine out of 10 study participants drank coffee, and few of the coffee drinkers said they also drank tea, the focus of a future analysis, says researcher Neal Freedman, PhD, of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute.

Freedman and his collaborators then followed the people in the study until the date they died or Dec. 31, 2008, whichever came first.

Compared to people who drank no coffee, coffee drinkers who downed three or more cups a day had about a 10% lower risk of death overall and a lower risk of dying from each of a variety of leading killers. Cancer was the only exception.

Among women, coffee drinkers and non-drinkers were equally likely to die of cancer. Among men, there was only a slight connection between heavier coffee drinking and increased risk of dying from cancer.

Reassuring Findings

The study findings should be reassuring to people who drink coffee, one of the most popular beverages in the United States and worldwide, Freedman says. "There's been a concern for a long time that coffee drinking might increase the risk of death."

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