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Coffee: Brewing Longevity

The proof is in – Drinking coffee can lead to a longer life!

Well, maybe it’s not actual proof but a recent review of more than 200 scientific studies supports the idea that drinking coffee every day could actually have health benefits.

The review, recently published in the British Medical Journal, aimed to dispel some of the confusion and controversy surrounding coffee consumption and looked at the evidence from 218 previous studies.

The verdict?

Researchers found drinking coffee was consistently associated with a lower risk of death from all causes and a lower risk of several cancers, as well as type 2 diabetes, gallstones and gout.

Liver conditions, such as cirrhosis, saw the greatest benefit associated with coffee consumption.

There also seemed to be beneficial associations between coffee consumption and Parkinson’s disease, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

This study adds to previous research findings promising connections between coffee consumption and improved health.

Earlier this year, a long-term observational study of nearly 20,000 people in Spain found that participants who consumed at least four cups of coffee per day had a 64% lower risk of death than those who infrequently or never consumed coffee. They also found a 22% lower risk of death for participants who drank two cups a day. Lower risk was especially strong for older participants, with two cups a day linked to a 30% reduction in mortality.

It’s important to note that the correlation between coffee consumption and lower risk of death is not proof of causation.

The findings are applicable to people who are already generally healthy. The studies didn’t find that drinking coffee correlates with reversing existing health problems, but with preserving health.

Is caffeine the magic ingredient?

Probably not.

There are two main factors that could be considered benefits to drinking coffee. First, coffee is a rich source of antioxidants (particularly chlorogenic acids), which may exert a protective, anti-inflammatory effect in the body and brain. The more we learn about the dangers of inflammation, the more likely it seems that foods which help reduce it are “life savers”, literally. Nutritionally speaking organic, black, fresh (beans or ground) coffee is best as it is higher in antioxidants. Some research suggests that dark roast blends have higher antioxidant levels than light or medium roast blends. Coffee also contains some B vitamins, magnesium and potassium.

The second is the stimulant caffeine. However, caffeine can present potential risk factors if consumed in excessive amounts and for certain people who may be vulnerable to its effects.

So the take away?

According to the research, 3 cups a day is the sweet spot when it came to relative risk of death compared with coffee abstainers. Generally speaking, drinking two to four cups a day is associated with overall lower risk of death, particularly among middle-age drinkers. So if you are a coffee lover like me, enjoy your coffee with the knowledge that it may be helping you live a longer, healthier life.

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