Monday, July 31, 2017

Can Drinking Coffee Make You Live Longer?

The jury might still be out, but did a recent EU study yielded enough data that hinted that by drinking three cups of coffee a day could make you live longer?

By: Ringo Bones 

When the results of the study got the interest of the so-called mainstream media during the second week of July 2017, coffee drinkers / coffee aficionados around the world finally got the vindication that they need that coffee drinking is a very healthy lifestyle choice. The “convoluted statistics” of the study even manage to suggest that a cup of coffee could extend one’s life expectancy by as much as nine minutes – an apparent declaration harking back to the anti smoking campaign of then US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop perhaps where a single stick of cigarette could shorten your life by as much as three minutes. But is the coffee drinking extending your life expectancy study scientifically valid – or is it just a bunch of baloney? 

The latest of the two studies were done with the participation of almost half a million people from 10 European countries. The research, published in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine, suggests an extra cup of coffee could lengthen a person’s lifespan – even if it’s decaffeinated. According to the study, researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer and Imperial College London say they have found that drinking more coffee is linked to a lower risk of death – particularly for heart diseases and diseases of the gut. They came to their conclusions after analyzing data of half a million people over the age of 35 from 10 EU countries. During the 16-year duration of the study, the researchers asked the research participants at the beginning of the study on how much coffee they tended to drink and then looked at their deaths over an average of 16 years. 

Based on the published research data, Prof. Sir David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, who analyses the public understanding of risk and says that if the estimated reductions in death really were down to coffee, then an extra cup of coffee every day would extend the life of a man by around three months and a woman by around a month on average. But despite the sheer scale of the study in terms of duration and participants, it is by no means perfect and cannot prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that coffee beans were the magic ingredient to a longer lifespan. 

One of the factors that the research study overlooked is on the difference of how much money is earned between the coffee drinking and non coffee drinking participants of the study. The coffee drinking participants of the study on average might have earned much more than their non coffee drinking participants and can afford better doctors and thus might play a factor in the extended lifespan during the 16-year duration of the study. It might also be that people who drank three cups of coffee a day spent more time socializing with people of like interests and thus boosting their well-being. The researchers also found higher coffee-drinking was linked to a higher rate of ovarian cancer in women. 

The most rigorous scientific way to be certain that coffee could make you live longer would be to force thousands of people all over the world to drink it regularly while preventing many thousands of otherwise similar people from ever drinking coffee. Scientists would then have to monitor every other aspect of their life – what else they ate and drank, how much they earned, how much they exercise they did for example. A study this rigorous is never likely to take place anytime soon.