There’s good news brewing for coffee lovers.
Data of more than 170,000 adults in the UK has revealed that those who drink between two and four cups of coffee each day, regardless of added sugar, appear to live longer lives compared to those who don’t sip java.
The analysis was conducted by scientists in China, at Southern Medical and Jinan Universities in Guangzhou, and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Lead author Dr. Dan Liu, a public health researcher at both institutions, said their study supports earlier positive findings on health outcomes associated with drinking coffee. “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 said in a recent statement, according to Internal Medicine News.
Liu’s team sourced 171,616 participants from the UK Biobank survey, which took place between 2006 and 2010, who had completed at least one questionnaire regarding their diet, including coffee drinking habits, as well as showed a clean bill of health in terms of cancer and cardiovascular disease — two of the biggest known causes of premature death.
They found that 55.4% of participants drank coffee without sugar or sweeteners, 14.3% drank coffee with sugar, 6.1% drank coffee with artificial sweetener and 24.2% did not drink coffee at all. Those who drank coffee were further analyzed based on how many cups per day.
Over the course of the survey period, 3,177 participants died, including 1,725 from cancer and 628 from heart disease. Once researchers considered other lifestyle and medical factors that might impact their risk of death, they discovered that coffee drinkers had fared better in the long run — and it didn’t matter whether they added sugar, or what kind of coffee, including decaf, they drank.
Benefits were most pronounced among the group who drank between two and four cups per day, whose risk of early death was 30% less likely than non-consumers. However, those who drank coffee with an artificial sweetener, as opposed to real sugar, did not live significantly longer than those who drank no coffee at all. Researchers believe other health factors may be at play in this case, including higher rates of obesity and hypertension among the artificial sweeteners group.
Their study reinforces previous findings of “U-shaped” benefits of coffee drinking, according to Liu, wherein those who drank very low or very high amounts of coffee appear worse off than those who fall down the middle.
Dr. Christina C. Wee, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and deputy editor of the Annals of Internal Medicine, penned an accompanying editorial to go along with the findings. She called out a critical detail with regards to sugar content in coffee.
“The average dose of added sugar per cup of sweetened coffee [in the study] was only a little over a teaspoon, or about 4 grams,” Wee wrote.
Ostensibly referring to Starbucks, she harped, “This is a far cry from the 15 grams of sugar in an 8-ounce cup of caramel macchiato at a popular U.S. coffee chain.”