Having Your Coffee and Enjoying It Too
- JANE E. BRODY
A disclaimer: I do not own stock in Starbucks nor, to my knowledge, in any other company that
sells coffee or its accouterments. I last wrote about America's most popular beverage four years
ago, and the latest and largest study to date supports that earlier assessment of coffee's health effects.
Although the new research, which involved more than 400,000 people in a 14-year
observational study, still cannot prove cause and effect, the findings are consistent with other
recent large studies.
The findings were widely reported, but here's the bottom line: When smoking and many other
factors known to influence health and longevity were taken into account, coffee drinkers in the
study were found to be living somewhat longer than abstainers. Further, the more coffee
consumed each day - up to a point, at least - the greater the benefit to longevity.
The observed benefit of coffee drinking was not enormous - a death rate among coffee drinkers
that was 10 percent to 15 percent lower than among abstainers. But the findings are certainly
reassuring, and given how many Americans drink coffee, the numbers of lives affected may be
Updating the Evidence
In decades past, experts repeatedly warned that a coffee habit could harm health and shorten
lives. And, indeed, the new study did find that when the data were adjusted only for age, the risk
of death was greater among coffee drinkers.
But when the researchers took into account other health-related characteristics among the
participants, like smoking, alcohol use, meat consumption, physical activity and body mass
index, those who regularly drank coffee lived longer.
"Coffee drinkers shouldn't be worried," said Neal Freedman, an epidemiologist at the National
Cancer Institute who directed the study. "Their risk is quite similar to that of nondrinkers."
Coffee drinkers who were relatively healthy when the study began were less likely than
nondrinkers to die of heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, infections, injuries and