Moderate consumption of coffee, with or without sugar, is associated with a reduced risk of death, according to a prospective cohort study.
Among more than 170,000 people in the United Kingdom, those who drank about two to four cups of coffee a day, with or without sugar, had a lower rate of death than those who didn’t drink coffee, reported lead author Dan Liu, MD, of the department of epidemiology at Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China.
Can coffee drinking result in longevity?
“Previous observational studies have suggested an association between coffee intake and reduced risk for death, but they did not distinguish between coffee consumed with sugar or artificial sweeteners and coffee consumed without,” Liu, who is also of the department of public health and preventive medicine, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China, and colleagues wrote in Annals of Internal Medicine.
What science says about coffee drinking
To learn more, the investigators turned to the UK Biobank, which recruited approximately half a million participants in the United Kingdom between 2006 and 2010 to undergo a variety of questionnaires, interviews, physical measurements, and medical tests. Out of this group, 171,616 participants completed at least one dietary questionnaire and met the criteria for the present study, including lack of cancer or cardiovascular disease upon enrollment.
Results from these questionnaires showed that 55.4% of participants drank coffee without any sweetener, 14.3% drank coffee with sugar, 6.1% drank coffee with artificial sweetener, and 24.2% did not drink coffee at all. Coffee drinkers were further sorted into groups based on how many cups of coffee they drank per day.
Over the course of about 7 years, 3,177 of the participants died, including 1,725 who died from cancer and 628 who died from cardiovascular disease.
The definitive answer: Coffee drinkers live longer
After accounting for other factors that might impact the risk of death, like lifestyle choices, the investigators found that coffee drinkers were significantly less likely to die from any cause, cardiovascular disease, or cancer, than those who didn’t drink coffee at all. This benefit was observed across types of coffee, including ground, instant, and decaffeinated varieties.
The protective effects of coffee were most apparent in people who drank about two to four cups a day, among whom death was about 30% less likely, regardless of whether they added sugar to their coffee or not.
Sugar or no sugar: Coffee drinkers live longer anyway!
People who drank coffee with artificial sweeteners did not live significantly longer than those who drank no coffee at all; however, the investigators suggested that this result may have been skewed by higher rates of negative health factors, such as obesity and hypertension, in the artificial sweetener group.
Liu and colleagues noted that their findings align with previous studies linking coffee consumption with survival. Like those other studies, the present data revealed a “U-shaped” benefit curve, in which moderate coffee consumption was associated with longer life, whereas low or no consumption and high consumption were not.
Although the present findings suggested that adding sugar did not eliminate the health benefits of coffee, Liu and colleagues still cautioned against sweetened beverages, citing widely known associations between sugar consumption and poor health.