Another week, another coffee-is-good-for-you study that caught people’s attention. New research found a link between regular coffee consumption and a reduced risk of death. While the findings are the latest to suggest coffee is fine to drink, they aren’t necessarily strong evidence that your daily cup of joe is a lifesaver.
The study was conducted by researchers at Southern Medical University in China and was: published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It looked at data from the UK Biobank, a long-term research project tracking the health of UK residents. As part of the project, people detailed their dietary habits, including their coffee consumption.
Compared with people who did not report drinking coffee, the researchers found that people who drank coffee (up to 4.5 cups a day) were less likely to die from any cause over a seven-year follow-up period. This pattern persisted after taking into account other factors, such as a person’s lifestyle, and even when people reported drinking sugar-sweetened coffee.
“Moderate consumption of unsweetened and sugar-sweetened coffee was associated with a lower risk of death,” the study authors wrote.
As Gizmodo has covered previously, this is far from the first work to suggest that coffee is good for you. Other studies have found a link between coffee consumption and a lower risk of heart failure, liver damage and even early death. Overall, these studies outperform those that suggest coffee can harm health. So at this point there isn’t much debate about whether coffee is an “unhealthy” food, at least for the average person. (People with certain conditions, such as clinical anxiety, may want to avoid the stimulant effects of caffeine.)
That said, studying the pros and cons of food is always tricky, and food scientists typically have to conduct research that comes with some important limitations. In this study, the authors themselves note, people’s diets were only looked at at one point in time. It is possible that some people started or stopped drinking coffee after the study started. It’s also possible that people misremembered their typical diet, a common flaw in these types of surveys.
But perhaps the most important caveat is that correlation isn’t causality per se. Coffee-drinking people can be different from people who abstain on purpose. For example, they tend to exercise more or eat healthier. Scientists do try to adjust for these kinds of factors, but it is often not possible to completely remove this kind of noise from the data.
Interestingly, the study did not find the same correlation for artificially sweetened coffee. That could mean mixing your espresso with Splenda instead of a sugar packet makes the drink less healthy, but it could also be an example of why these conclusions might not be as firm as the headlines make them seem.
This type of research, also known as observational research, is an important part of science. Often times, we simply cannot run a gold standard clinical trial to test theories about the world. But we also shouldn’t take the numbers a single study spews out as gospel (in this one, the associated risk of premature death was up to 30% lower for coffee drinkers). Given the bulk of the evidence, you can rest easy knowing that drinking coffee in moderation probably won’t do you any harm. But any conclusion beyond that is murkier.
And honestly, who cares? I definitely don’t drink my daily coffee because I think it will help me live longer – I just love the taste and the morning pep it gives me.
#coffee #live #longer #complicated