Folks who drink two or three cups of coffee daily appear to live longer than people who don't care for the beverage, new research shows.
Coffee lovers also seemed to have healthier hearts, which might contribute to the longevity boost, said the team of Australian investigators.
The findings were published Sept. 27 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
“Ground, instant and decaffeinated coffee were associated with equivalent reductions in the incidence of cardiovascular disease and death from cardiovascular disease or any cause,” study author Dr. Peter Kistler, of the Baker Heart and Diabetes Research Institute in Melbourne, said in a journal news release.
While other studies have suggested that the coffee habit might be a healthy one, Kistler's team said there's not been much investigation into the health effects of various forms of coffee.
To try to find out, they analyzed data from the ongoing UK Biobank database, looking at data on people aged 40 to 69. In this study, the average age was 58 and the Australian researchers focused on levels of daily coffee intake and life span, as well as heart disease, heart failure and stroke.
Overall, data on almost 450,000 Britons was included in the research. Regarding daily coffee intake, participants were divided into six groups: No coffee; less than a cup a day; one cup per day; two to three cups per day; four to five cups per day; and over five cups per day.
About 200,000 of the participants typically drank instant coffee, nearly 83,000 drank ground coffee, and just over 68,000 preferred decaffeinated java. Participants' health was tracked for 12.5 years, on average, and almost 28,000 (about 6%) died during follow-up.
Kistler's group first accounted for people's age, sex, weight, use of alcohol or tobacco, and conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
After doing so they found that people with a medium level of coffee intake — two to three cups per day — showed the greatest gains in life span, compared to people who never drank coffee.
The type of coffee seemed to matter a bit: Folks who drank ground coffee had 27% lower odds of dying during the study period; those who drank decaf coffee had 14% lower odds; and those who drank instant had 11% lower odds.
Just under 10% of participants went on to develop heart disease during the course of the study. But again, this was 20% less likely to happen among people who drank two to three cups of ground coffee per day, and 9% and 6% less likely among those who drank a similar amount of instant or decaffeinated coffee, respectively.
Coffee drinking was also significantly associated with a decline in a person's risk for cardiac arrhythmias. That includes atrial fibrillation, which can raise stroke risk, the study authors noted.
This was an observational study, so it wasn't designed to prove cause-and-effect, only an association.
Still, there could be biological reasons behind coffee's goodness, Kistler believes.
“Caffeine is the most well-known constituent in coffee, but the beverage contains more than 100 biologically active components,” he noted. “It is likely that the non-caffeinated compounds were responsible for the positive relationships observed between coffee drinking, cardiovascular disease and survival.”
The bottom line, according to Kistler: “Drinking modest amounts of coffee of all types should not be discouraged but can be enjoyed as a heart-healthy behavior.”
Find out more about coffee and your health at the American Heart Association.
SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, Sept. 27, 2022