By Maria Panagiotidi
Older adults who drank coffee — caffeinated or decaffeinated — had a lower risk of death overall than others who did not drink coffee, according a study by researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and AARP. The results of the study were published in the May 17, 2012 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages worldwide, but the association between coffee consumption and the risk of death remains unclear. Neal Freedman and his colleagues examined this relationship in 229,119 men and 173,141 women who participated in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. The ages of the participants varied from 50 to 71.
After adjusting for tobacco-smoking, alcohol consumption, and other potential confounders, the researchers found that coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections. No difference was found in the case of cancer. Heavier coffee intake among men was associated with increased risk of cancer death. The association, however, was only marginally statistically significant.
The researchers found that the association between coffee and reduction in risk of death increased with the amount of coffee consumed. The participants who consumed three or more cups of coffee per day had approximately a 10 percent lower risk of death. The findings were similar for caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee consumption.
It should be noted that the current study does not allow us to infer a causal relationship between coffee drinking and lower risk of death. Examining the exact nature of this relationship will be the subject of future studies.
Neal D. Freedman, Yikyung Park, Christian C. Abnet, Albert R. Hollenbeck, Rashmi Sinha. Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality. New England Journal of Medicine, 2012; 366 (20): 1891 DOI:10.1056/NEJMoa1112010