June 16, 2008 -- Coffee drinkers, rejoice. While you might be using it for a "pick-me-up," coffee may also be extending your life.
Whether you are on a first-name basis with your barista or simply refueling from the office coffee pot during the day, new research suggests that drinking coffee, even in large amounts, might help you live longer.
Coffee drinkers in the study had slightly lower death rates than non-coffee drinkers over time, whether their drink of choice had caffeine or not.
The findings do not prove that coffee is protective, but they strongly suggest that drinking coffee in large amounts is not harmful if you are healthy, researcher Esther Lopez-Garcia, PhD, of the University of Madrid, tells WebMD.
Among women, drinking two to three cups of coffee a day was associated with an 18% reduction in death from all causes, while drinking four to five cups was associated with a 26% reduction in risk.
The risk reduction in men was smaller and could have been due to chance.
"We can't say from this one study that coffee extends your life, but it does appear that it doesn't increase the risk for death for people who are healthy," she says.
But some studies also suggest that drinking caffeinated coffee is associated with an increased risk for heart attack and stroke in people who already have heart disease.
The American Heart Association concludes that the research linking caffeine to health risks is conflicting. The group concludes that moderate coffee consumption, defined as one or two cups a day, "doesn't seem to be harmful."
The few previous studies that have examined the impact of regular coffee drinking on mortality have also been conflicting, Lopez-Garcia says.
In an effort to clarify the issue, Lopez-Garcia and colleagues from the University of Madrid and Harvard University analyzed data from 84,214 women who participated in Harvard's Nurse's Health Study and 41,736 men who participated in the companion study involving male health professionals.