When your primary doctors at MD 2.0 in Jupiter, Florida, discuss healthy lifestyles with our patients, sometimes they will admit to their daily caffeine intake with averted eyes and a guilty manner.
But there’s no need to feel guilty about consuming moderate amounts of coffee—quite the opposite. Recent research has linked regular coffee consumption to a decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and liver cancer.
Now comes word of two new studies that suggest that regular coffee consumption might help you live longer in general.
One, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, found that coffee drinkers experienced a lower rate of death from all causes, especially for circulatory and digestive diseases.
What accounts for the benefit? Researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint it precisely, but theorize that because the beverage is loaded with antioxidants—the chemical compounds known to repair damage to DNA —that plays a significant role in its health effects.
Also published in the same journal, a second study seemed to show an association with drinking one cup of coffee per day and a 12% decrease in the risk of death. (Remember that an association isn’t definitive—it doesn’t prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship.)
The longevity benefit seemed even higher in those who drank more: two or three cups per day, with those subjects experiencing an 18% lower risk of death. The benefit accrued to drinkers of both caffeinated and decaf coffee, which seemed to suggest the increased longevity had to do with the coffee itself, not the caffeine.
This is important, because of news of a teenager who died recently from an overdose of caffeine, prompting panic among coffee drinkers and those who regularly consume caffeine in other ways.
The trigger in this case seemed to be over-consumption of caffeinated beverages: He had consumed a latte, a large diet soft drink, and an energy drink, all within two hours prior to his collapse. The coroner’s report said that the young man died of a caffeine-induced cardiac event, which caused a probable arrhythmia. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents ages 12 to 18 restrict caffeine consumption to fewer than 100 milligrams of caffeine a day. Just the latte and soda he drank would have put him over that limit, let alone the energy drink, which can contain anywhere from 100 to over 400 milligrams of the stimulant.
So, as with most things that are enjoyable, moderation seems to be the key. And stick to coffee, if possible. What is “moderate” consumption? Previous studies have suggested that five cups of coffee a day is the outer limit. In fact, a 2009 study found a 17%-21% increased risk of death among those who drank four or more cups a day.
As always, your local concierge medical doctors are here and available to discuss this or any other health concerns you may have.