Reuters–Older people who reported drinking a few daily cups of coffee were less likely to die over the subsequent 14 years than were those who abstained from the beverage or rarely drank it, according to a U.S. study of 400,000 people.
In particular, coffee was tied to a lower risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, infections, injuries and accidents, the researchers said in a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
But they warned that the findings should be interpreted with caution because coffee habits were only measured at one point in time — and it’s unclear what ingredients in java, exactly, could be tied to a longer life.
“We know that coffee has an effect on the brain, so it’s possible that may play a role,” said lead researcher Neal Freedman at the National Institutes of Health in Rockville, Maryland. “Or, it may have an effect on bone health.”
Research on the long-term effects of coffee on various diseases has come to conflicting conclusions. Some studies suggest coffee drinkers are less likely to get diabetes, but others hint they may have a higher risk of heart disease.
“For those who do drink coffee, there’s no reason to stop. Periodically someone will say it’s bad, but I think this strengthens the view that it’s not harmful,” said Lawrence Krakoff, a cardiologist from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, who wasn’t part of the study.
“Whether it’s beneficial — without knowing the cause, it’s hard to say. I wouldn’t encourage people to suddenly drink a lot of coffee with the expectation of benefit.”
For their data, researchers pulled from a diet and health study that started with nutrition surveys including questions on coffee intake given to adults ages 50 to 71 in 1995 and 1996. Researchers then tracked those participants through 2008, using national and state disease and death registries to figure out how many of them died, and from what.