Drink Coffee – Live longer (?)

A new study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology suggests that drinking three cups of coffee a day may prolong your life. Reading around the subject it’s clear that a huge number of scientists are spending a great deal of time studying the effects and presumably drinking a great deal of the world’s second favourite hot beverage – Coffee comes a close second to tea!

These scientists spent many years analysing data from 468,629 UK Biobank participants, who didn’t have any record of heart disease at the start of the research period.

The participants were divided into three groups: non-coffee drinkers, light-to-moderate coffee-drinkers and those who consumed a significant amount of coffee a day, 22 per non-coffee drinkers and 58 per cent drank between up to three cups a day the rest drank at least three cups.

The researchers also used MRI scans to gain a better understanding of how coffee-drinking habits affect the anatomy and functioning of the heart over time. Dr. Pál Maurovich-Horvat, the Director of the Medical Imaging Centre at the Semmelweis University, who supervised the study said: “Using the MRI scans we were able to analyse the effect of regular coffee intake on the structure and function of the heart. We found that regular light-to-moderate coffee consumption is beneficial for the health of the heart, with suggestion that it can slow down age-related cardiac changes.”

Dr. Judit Simon, PhD student at the Semmelweis University, who led the study said: “Light-to-moderate coffee consumption was associated with a 12% lower risk of overall mortality, and with a 17% lower risk of death caused by cardiovascular diseases compared to non-coffee drinkers. In addition, from half to three cups of coffee was associated with a 21 % lower risk of stroke.”

Unfortunately, these benefits seem to only come from coffee brewed from beans and not instant but more than three cups a day doesn’t improve things. The reason behind this may relate to the different production process of the ground and instant forms as they contain different additives. “The research also found that even decaffeinated coffee was associated with lower all-cause mortality risk which also suggests that it’s not only the caffeine which plays a role in the positive effects of coffee, but this will need further research,” said Dr. Judit Simon

Many previous studies have shown positive and negative health benefits, often relating to the functioning of the cardiovascular system with increases in blood pressure and arrhythmias.

This study was conducted by academics at Semmelweis University in Hungary, and Queen Mary University of London where Dr Steffen Petersen, is quoted to have said the results show moderate coffee consumption “is not cardiovascularly harmful and may even be beneficial”. Hardly a huge endorsement to take up coffee drinking if you don’t like it but for those hampered by the belief that drinking coffee is harmful it might allow us the satisfaction and encouragement to continue.

The study results showed those who drank between 0.5-3 cups per day were 12% less likely to die, compared to non-coffee drinkers by the end of the study and 17% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, and 21% less likely to have a stroke compared to non-coffee drinkers.

A further benefit was that they were also less likely to be diabetic than non-coffee drinkers. It’s extremely difficult to consider every variable but it’s possible that coffee drinkers drink less sugary soda drinks. Caffeine can suppress appetite and this may have an effect on obesity levels and thus heart disease and stroke. Instant coffee didn’t have any benefit possibly due to the different chemical constituents and levels of potentially harmful substances negating the positive effect.

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