Coffee drinkers live longer, study shows

By Barbara Gutierrez

Coffee drinkers live longer, study shows

By Barbara Gutierrez
New research reveals that those who drink coffee have a lower risk of death over those who do not imbibe the brew. University of Miami experts offer their views on the report.

For all java lovers. There is good news for you.

That heavenly cup of coffee you so eagerly await each morning can extend your life. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine has determined that drinking a moderate amount of coffee, even with one teaspoon of sugar, can be beneficial to your health.

Researchers at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, observed more than 171,000 healthy residents of the United Kingdom over a period of seven years and determined that those who drank a moderate amount of coffee had a lower risk of death over those who did not drink the brew.

Other studies on coffee have suggested that it could extend your life, but those studies only used black coffee. The Chinese researchers wanted to test if adding sugar or artificial sweetener would affect the outcome. It did not.

Decaffeinated coffee also offers the same benefits, the study found. Alyson Marquez, registered dietitian for University of Miami Dining, says she liked the study because it provides health outcomes for different kinds of coffee consumption, including adding sugar or artificial sweetener.

“When people say they drink coffee you need to ask them, ‘What is in your coffee?’ ” she said. “Drinking black coffee would be the best. But if you are drinking four cups a day and add one teaspoon of sugar to each cup of coffee that is four teaspoons of added sugar a day. In addition to the other sugar added to foods and other beverages you are consuming, that adds up to a lot of added sugar.”

Extras like cream, whole milk, or syrups can also add calories to the mix.

But nutritionists agree that coffee has several properties that can promote heart and digestive health as well as reduction of Type 2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer. Some studies have linked coffee drinkers with lower rates of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson diseases.

One of the most notable benefits is that coffee beans contain natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory elements.   

“Any type of drink that has natural anti-inflammatory effects would be beneficial,” said Arlette Perry, professor of Kinesiology and Sports Sciences at the School of Education and Human Development.

One of the most immediate benefits of drinking coffee is that it is a stimulant, so it can provide increased mental performance. It works on the brain to promote muscle activation, said Perry. It also raises the level of serotonin and dopamine in the system, substances that improve one’s mood.

“That is why people drink it in the morning,” she said. “It gives them a boost.”

That same boost can raise blood pressure and can be detrimental to those with health concerns such as high blood pressure, glaucoma, or acid reflux, said Marquez. Pregnant women should also check with their doctors to see how much coffee is healthy for them.

Marquez also warned that coffee drinkers should check with their physicians to make sure that the caffeine does not interfere with any medications they may be taking.

Nevertheless, drinking coffee has many benefits.

It contains fiber as well as polyphenols that act as antioxidants and can help with digestion and improve metabolic function. Antioxidants have also been found to decrease certain kinds of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, according to Marquez.   

The stimulant property in a cup of coffee also helps with muscular activation and works on the brain to recruit more muscle action thus making it easier to exercise, noted Perry.

Although the news about coffee sounds promising, it is important to look at one’s entire diet and fitness regimen when thinking about overall health, Marquez pointed out.  

“In nutrition it is hard to isolate one thing, you want to see the bigger picture,” she said.