July 17, 2008

Coffee Drinking May Prolong Life

I recently read a very informative article article entitled, “Coffee Drinking May Prolong Life” by Madeline Ellis. Ellis informs us of a new study done by Autonoma University in Madrid, Spain, which suggests that, “drinking coffee in moderate amounts, up to six cups a day, may actually reduce the risks of death in general, and may help to combat heart disease, especially in women.
I’ve posted the article below in its entirety:

The aroma….the taste….the caffeine lift! No wonder millions of people, both young and old, around the world love nothing better than sitting down to a good cup of coffee. But as with many other things we enjoy in our everyday life, we often question whether it is good for us. Over the years there have been thousands of studies done on the health effects of coffee, yielding no clear consensus. However, the latest and one of the largest studies ever conducted suggests that drinking coffee in moderate amounts, up to six cups a day, may actually reduce the risks of death in general, and may help to combat heart disease, especially in women.

In the study, researchers led by Dr. Esther Lopez-Garcia, assistant professor of preventative medicine at the Autonoma University in Madrid, Spain, tracked 86,214 female nurses, who had participated in the Nurse’s Health Study, from 1980 to 2004 and 41,736 male veterinarians, pharmacists and other health care workers, who had participated in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, from 1986 to 2004. At the onset of the study, all volunteers were free of heart disease and cancer.
The participants answered detailed questionnaires every two to four years, which included information about their coffee consumption and other dietary habits, weight, exercise habits, smoking history and health conditions. The researchers then compared the frequency of death from any cause, death due to heart disease, and death due to cancer among people with different coffee-drinking habits. After accounting for other risk factors, such as smoking, diet and body size, the researchers found that women who drank two to three cups of caffeinated coffee daily had a 25 percent lower risk of death from heart disease and an 18 percent lower death risk from a cause other than cancer or heart disease, compared to non-coffee drinkers. For men, the study did not find an increase or decrease in death risk. Dr. Lopez-Garcia surmised it could be that there were fewer men involved in the study and they were tracked for a shorter period of time.

The researchers found the lower risk of death was mainly due to a lower risk for death from heart disease, and they found no link between coffee drinking and cancer deaths. And, according to the researchers, participants who drank caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee had similar death rates, suggesting that caffeine was not responsible for the effect.

“Our results suggest that long-term, regular coffee consumption does not increase the risk of death and probably has several beneficial effects on health,” said Dr. Lopez-Garcia. However, she also stressed that the study findings should be read with caution and may only hold true for healthy people. Those “with any disease or condition should ask their doctor about their risk, because caffeine still has an acute effect on short-term increase of blood pressure,” she said.

Dr. Peter Galier, an internal medicine specialist, former chief of staff at Santa Monica UCLA and Orthopedic Hospital and associate professor of medicine at the University of California Los Angeles’ David Geffen School of Medicine, said that while the study is interesting, it does have its pitfalls. For instance, self-reporting could be one, since people may have under or over-reported their coffee consumption. “I think what this study tells us is not so much that coffee is the answer to everything. But, rather, that some compounds, such as the antioxidants found in coffee, may be healthy,” he said.

“There’s very little evidence that coffee itself is a bad thing. It’s gotten a bit of a bum rap,” said Ken Mukamal, an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Mukamal, who did not participate in this study, has been involved in other epidemiological studies on coffee and mortality. Mukamal point out that past studies have shown that the health effects of coffee may depend on how it’s made. He said that boiled drinks like Turkish coffee and French press have high levels of a cholesterol-boosting compound called cafestol, and “coffee drinks” like mocha triple venti lattes are full of calories, which may offset any benefit of the coffee itself. In comparison, filtered drip coffee, which most of the survey respondents likely consumed, has few calories and almost no cafestol. The study is probably “saying something about filtered, good old-fashioned 1980’s and 1990’s coffee and not saying very much about the fancy kinds of coffee that you might be drinking in 2008,” he said.

The study findings were reported in the June 17 Annals of Internal Medicine.