• Researchers have found that drinking coffee appears to be linked to a longer lifespan.
  • Moderate coffee drinkers were less likely to die during a 7-year follow-up period.
  • Coffee has previously been linked to several health benefits, including less risk of certain diseases.
  • Moderate sugar intake did not reduce the benefits.
  • However, experts suggest staying away from high-calorie specialty drinks.

Researchers at the Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China have some good news for coffee lovers. They found that people who drink the popular beverage were less likely to die during a seven-year follow-up period.

The effect was strongest in people with moderate coffee consumption, equating to about 1.5 to 3.5 cups daily.

Both sweetened and unsweetened coffee were linked to a lower risk for death. However, people drinking sweetened coffee did a bit better than those who took no sugar in their cup of brew.

Drinkers of sweetened coffee were as much as 31 percent less likely to die while those who drank unsweetened coffee were 21 percent less likely to die.

“The results for those who used artificial sweeteners were less clear,”said lead researcher, Dr. Dan Liu.

Coffee’s link to lower risk of death and the role of sweeteners

“Studies suggest coffee may protect the heart and aid in treating other diseases,” Liu told Healthline.

However, previous research surrounding the health benefits of drinking coffee did not examine whether specific sweetener use in coffee had any influence on health outcomes.

Liu said her team’s goal was to see how this might affect the results of their research.

The study was set up as a prospective cohort study, meaning that they would place people in groups who were similar to each other in every way except how they took their coffee. Then, they would follow them over time to see how they fared.

They obtained their data from the UK Biobank. This database includes about a half a million people who have volunteered to make their medical and genetic information available to researchers.

Altogether, 171,616 people who did not have cardiovascular disease or cancer at the start of the study were included. The average age of the study participants was 55.6 years. These people were followed beginning in 2009 and ending in 2018.

During the study, people reported their consumption of coffee and whether they used sugar, artificial sweeteners, or no sweetener at all.

“Adults who drank sugar-sweetened coffee added only one teaspoon of sugar on average,” said Liu.

The research team estimated deaths due to all causes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

After analyzing the gathered data, the researchers found a U-shaped association between how much coffee was drank and risk for death.

People with a moderate level of consumption did better than those who had less or more.

The study authors did caution, however, that the data is around ten years old. Also, it is from a country where tea is a very popular drink, which could potentially have affected the outcome.

They further noted that the people in the study used much less sugar than what is found in many chain coffee shops’ drinks. This makes it difficult to make comparisons between the study participants and people who get their coffee from outlets like Starbuck’s.

Recommendations for coffee drinking

Mary Mosquera Cochran, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, noted that moderate coffee consumption, which she defined as two to five cups per day, has previously been associated with many positive health effects.

These include decreased risks for stroke, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, colon cancer, liver cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and, according to recent research, drinking coffee may also reduce the risk of acute kidney injury.

Cochran said, based on the research by Liu’s team and other studies, it appears that coffee consumption is linked to increased lifespan. It can’t be said for certain that one causes the other, she noted, but this study does support that view.

Cochran also noted she found it interesting that moderate sugar intake with coffee (1.5 to 3.5 teaspoons per day) did not reduce the health benefits. She also found it interesting that the result with artificial sweeteners was inconclusive.

“As with all observational studies,” she said, “it can be hard to really separate out the influence of the other factors that can affect health, as well as the fact that they didn’t observe changes in coffee intake over time, which can also affect outcomes.”

When asked about specific recommendations for coffee drinking, Cochran said, “As long as you don’t experience any negative side effects, moderate coffee intake may be a great way to protect against many chronic diseases and increase longevity.”

She suggests that if you find coffee to be too stimulating, you may still want to drink decaf coffee since it’s thought that the antioxidants found in it confer many of its health benefits.

“Also keep in mind,” said Cochran, “participants in this study that did add sugar to their coffee didn’t add more than one teaspoon to each cup. So, it is likely a better idea to stick with simple coffee drinks where you control the amount of added sugar and avoid artificial sweeteners.”

Liu’s conclusions were similar to Cochran’s.

“Based on the findings, we can tell people that there is no need for most coffee drinkers to eliminate the beverage from their diet, but to be cautious about higher-calorie specialty coffees,” she said.

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