Go ahead and pour yourself another cup of coffee.
A new, large-scale, long-term study adds to the growing body of evidence that coffee consumption is, in fact, good for you.
Published today in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, the study found that moderate coffee drinkers (which the researchers define as those who consume three to five cups a day) experienced a lower risk of deaths from cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, Type 2 diabetes and suicide. In addition, coffee consumption was not associated with cancer deaths.
"This study provides further evidence that moderate consumption of coffee may confer health benefits in terms of reducing premature death due to several diseases," senior author Frank Hu said in a statement. "These data support the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Report that concluded that 'moderate coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy dietary pattern.'"
What's perhaps most impressive about the study is its scale – the findings are based on data from three ongoing studies, comprising of a total of more than 200,000 participants who filled out validated food questionnaires every four years, some for up to 30 years. During the follow-up period, more than 31,000 participants died of various causes. (Analyses took into consideration potential confounding factors such as smoking, body mass index, physical activity, alcohol consumption and other dietary factors.)
Interestingly, if not surprisingly, people who frequently drink coffee are much more likely to smoke and drink alcohol. When researchers repeated their analysis among a cohort of coffee drinkers who never smoked, the beverage's protective benefits against premature mortality was even more evident. For example, the researchers found a positive association between coffee consumption and lung cancer and respiratory disease deaths, but when they isolated a group of non-smoking coffee drinkers, that link disappeared.
Want coffee's benefits but don’t like the accompanying caffeinated buzz? When it comes to protective benefits against premature death decaffeinated coffee is just as good as the real thing, the researchers found, which suggests the benefits lie not in the caffeine but in additional coffee components.
“Bioactive compounds in coffee reduce insulin resistance and systematic inflammation,” said study author Ming Ding. “They might be responsible for the inverse association between coffee and mortality." While the study was not designed to show a direct cause and effect relationship between coffee consumption and dying from illness – "more studies are needed to investigate the biological mechanisms producing these effects," said Ding – it's one more piece of evidence in a growing jigsaw puzzle that a coffee habit is nothing to worry about.