Healthy Living

Do Coffee Drinkers Live Longer?

Nov. 13, 2018

Good news, java junkies—it turns out that coffee drinking may have some real health perks. Registered dietitian April Ho filters out some facts from a recent study that suggests that drinking coffee may add years to your life.Two people's hands wrapped around a cup of coffee with a heart shape inside

Historically, coffee has been linked with many negative health outcomes. But if you’re among those guzzling the 66 billion cups of coffee consumed each year in the U.S., experts have brewed up some stats in support of your daily grind. As reported in JAMA Internal Medicine, coffee drinkers are more likely to live longer.

It turns out that most of coffee’s association with poor health results from its link to smoking, according to researcher Christopher Gardner of the Stanford Prevention Research Center. Back when studies on health and coffee consumption began, coffee drinkers were also likely to smoke regularly—a habit with proven health detriments. While many of the original studies did not take that into account, newer research has separated the two and, as a result, has linked coffee consumption with many health benefits.

The JAMA study followed a half-million people ages 38 to 73, over 10 years, tracking their coffee intake, smoking status and certain health markers including death. The aim was to find a link between death and how quickly a person’s body metabolizes caffeine, since that varies from person to person based on certain genetic factors. Surprisingly, study results showed that, regardless of caffeine metabolism, more coffee consumption (even eight or more cups per day) was associated with a lower risk of death. And this association held up for all types of coffee—including decaf—suggesting that that the benefits of coffee may transcend the effects of caffeine.

This notion is supported in a 2017 British Medical Journal article, reporting on a “meta-analysis,” an observational study that combines statistics from multiple studies to identify trends and issues. In those findings, coffee consumption was linked to lower risk of death, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver disease, dementia, and some cancers including prostate, skin, endometrial and liver cancer. It also found coffee consumption benefits for Parkinson’s disease, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. On the down side, it showed harmful associations between coffee consumption and pregnancy outcomes as well as risk of fracture in women. However, researchers caution against drawing strict conclusions that coffee is a direct cause of these benefits, since most meta-analyses rely on lower quality data from observational studies.

So, if you don’t drink coffee, should you start? And if you do, would more be better?

We need additional controlled trials before recommending that you boost your coffee drinking to improve your health. While a daily coffee habit seems to be associated with many benefits, it’s worth considering what goes into that coffee. Could the amount of sugar or cream you add outweigh any benefits? Regardless of how much coffee you drink, using less of these sweet and fatty additives will certainly maximize the benefits you get from your morning cup of Joe!


Registered dietitian April Ho


April Ho is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer with the Center for Community Health & Prevention at URMC. You may occasionally find her at the Rochester Public Market doing nutrition and cooking demonstrations as part of Foodlink, Inc.’s Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables program.