How do you drink your coffee? One type can prolong your life

Drinking three cups of coffee a day is good for your heart but only if you drink the right kind. A huge study has some important insights regarding your drinking habits.

ETHIOPIA WAS the first provider and exporter of coffee beans, to Yemen.  (photo credit: ALEXANDR MARYNKIN/UNSPLASH)
ETHIOPIA WAS the first provider and exporter of coffee beans, to Yemen.

Drinking three cups of coffee a day can help you live longer, a new study claims. 

In recent years, the world of science has been discovering the proven benefits of the stimulant drink that most of us need to start our day, even when people said it wasn’t healthy. Now, researchers have changed their minds.

This new study is particularly interesting and important because it was conducted over an entire decade and included close to half a million participants, so the data is comprehensive. 

Researchers found that those who regularly drank coffee were 12% less likely to die than those who didn’t indulge our favorite habit. Their risk of developing heart/cardiovascular disease or stroke was about one-fifth (20%) of those who don’t drink coffee, as well.

But these gratifying findings have an important asterisk to pay attention to. The health benefits stemmed only from drinking coffee from ground beans, not instant coffee.

DECAFFEINATED COFFEE began to gain in popularity in the 1950s.  (credit: TEL AVIV-JAFFA MUNICIPAL ARCHIVE COLLECTION)DECAFFEINATED COFFEE began to gain in popularity in the 1950s. (credit: TEL AVIV-JAFFA MUNICIPAL ARCHIVE COLLECTION)

Drinking more than three cups of coffee a day didn’t increase the health benefits, the researchers found. But they noted that in addition to caffeine, coffee has several other minerals and antioxidants which have been linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, dementia and various types of cancer. Past studies showed a link between coffee consumption and an increased risk of suffering from high blood pressure or mortality from cardiovascular disease.

The new study was conducted in collaboration between Semmelweis University in Budapest and Queen Mary University of London. Dr. Stephen Petersen from Queen Mary University said results showed moderate coffee drinking doesn’t harm and may be beneficial to cardiovascular health. 

Appetite suppressor, helps control weight

Of the half a million study participants, 22% didn’t drink coffee at all and 58% drank up to 3 cups of coffee per day. The rest drank at least three cups or more of coffee daily. The study was published in the journal European Journal of Preventive Cardiology and its findings show that those who drank between 0.5-3 cups of coffee a day had a 12% lower mortality risk at the end of the study period than those who didn’t drink coffee at all.

Coffee drinkers' risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was 17% lower than those who didn’t drink coffee, and their risk of having a stroke was 21% lower. Coffee consumers were also less likely to become diabetic.

Since caffeine is also an appetite suppressant, researchers speculate that it may help prevent obesity and its related medical problems.

Researchers also found that a quarter of the study participants who drank instant coffee didn’t get any health benefits. Instant coffee has more caffeine, more antioxidants but also more acrylamide, a substance found in certain foods which might increase the risk of cancer and  which contributes to damage of the nervous system.

Researchers believe that the positive effects that coffee has on health can be explained by changes in heart structure, which were found in those who regularly drink it. They examined MRI scans of the cardiovascular system performed on 30,000 study participants and found signs that participants who drank coffee had healthier hearts. The scans showed that participants who drank a moderate-high amount of coffee had larger heart chambers so their hearts could pump more blood.