Regularly drinking coffee may be linked to longer lifespan

by Trinity Cardinal

Lauren Dempsey, MS in Biomedicine and Law, RN, FISM News 


A new study reveals that those who enjoy coffee, with or without sugar, are less likely to die early than non-coffee drinkers, in what many will celebrate as one more reason to add an extra cup to their morning routine.

The research was published in the “Annals of Internal Medicine” this week where researchers discovered that regular consumption of coffee, sweetened or not, was linked to lower mortality rates. Previous studies have been done on the health benefits associated with drinking coffee, however, those “studies did not distinguish between coffee consumed with sugar or artificial sweeteners and coffee consumed without.” The data from this study surprisingly shows that those who add sugar to their coffee had an even lower mortality rate than those who did not. 

The study was conducted between 2009 and 2018 and included 171,616 participants from the U.K. that were on average 55 years old and had no history of heart disease or cancer. Researchers evaluated coffee consumption patterns during a 7 year follow up period and found that those who drank unsweetened coffee were 16% to 21% less likely to die than those who did not drink coffee at all, and individuals who drank 1.5 to 3.5 daily cups of coffee sweetened with sugar were 29% to 31% less likely to die when compared to those that did not drink any coffee. 

The study doesn’t explain why drinking coffee was associated with a lower risk for death, however many theories exist. Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said, “The overall evidence has been pretty convincing that coffee has been more healthful than harmful in terms of health outcomes.” He explained that moderate coffee intake is associated with a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and depression.

Anthony DiMarino, a registered dietician at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition, wasn’t involved with the study but did explain that “Coffee contains nearly 1,000 botanical compounds, most of which have not been studied yet,” adding that “Coffee does provide nutrients such as B vitamins, potassium, and riboflavin, which are essential to health. Moreover, coffee provides different anti-inflammatory compounds, which help reduce our risk of cancer.”

According to the National Coffee Association’s 2022 report on national trends related to coffee, Americans drink coffee more than any other beverage, including water, soda, tea, and juice. It is estimated that 517 million cups of coffee are consumed each day. Researchers cautioned that coffee drinkers should have no more than 3.5 cups per day and should limit the amount of sugar with each coffee for maximum benefits. 

The jury is still out on artificial sweeteners, which have been known to negatively affect health. Dr. Mark Hyman, Director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic sheds some light, saying that artificial sweeteners can affect your taste buds and slow metabolism and are highly addictive.

Researchers are also warning against using the data from this study to justify more use of sugar. Penny Kris-Etherton, a nutrition professor at Penn State University said that “We know that sugar has adverse effects, even if you add sugar and don’t exceed your calorie needs, you’re still negating some of the benefits because sugar is a negative food ingredient.” She added that research highlighting the benefits of coffee isn’t “talking about these large Frappuccinos that have at least 800 calories a beverage” which can cause “weight gain will create negative effects on cardiac risk.”

Federal dietary guidelines say three to five cups of coffee per day can be part of a healthy diet, but that only refers to plain black coffee.