Two Studies, Including USC Report, Say Drinking Coffee Is Linked to Living a Longer Life

A link between drinking coffee and living a longer life was found in two studies published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

One of the studies was conducted at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine and reported a 12 percent lower risk of death due to cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and respiratory and kidney disease for participants who drank one cup of coffee a day, according to a USC news release.  Meanwhile, an 18 percent lower risk was reported in those who drank three cups of coffee a day — both decaffeinated and regular.

The other study, compiled by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and researchers at Imperial College in London, reported that drinking three or more cups of coffee a day led to a lower risk for liver disease, suicide in men, cancer in women, digestive diseases and circulatory diseases.

The finding that both regular and decaffeinated coffee showed similar effects suggests it is the coffee itself, not caffeine, that is likely leading to a smaller incidence of certain life-threatening diseases, the USC news release stated.

But what really marks this coffee study apart from so many before it, according to USC researchers, is the inclusion of study participants from a more ethnically and racially diverse range of backgrounds than those in previous studies. The study used data from the Multiethnic Cohort Study, an effort between the Keck School of Medicine and the University of Hawaii Cancer Center that is comprised of 215,000 participants primarily of African American, Latino, Native Hawaiian, Caucasian or Japanese origin.

That cohort describes itself as “the most ethnically diverse study examining lifestyle risk factors that may lead to cancer,” according to a USC news release.

“This study is the largest of its kind and includes minorities who have very different lifestyles,” Veronica Setiawan, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, said.

“Seeing a similar pattern across different populations gives stronger biological backing to the argument that coffee is good for you whether you are white, African-American, Latino or Asian,” Setiawan added.

The European study reported that the way coffee is prepared or drunk did not seem to have an impact on its link to a lower incidence of certain diseases in study participants.

“We looked at multiple countries across Europe, where the way the population drinks coffee and prepares coffee is quite different,” said Marc Gunter, reader in cancer epidemiology and prevention at Imperial College’s School of Public Health in the UK, who co-authored the European study.

“The fact that we saw the same relationships in different countries is kind of the implication that its something about coffee rather than its something about the way that coffee is prepared or the way it’s drunk,” he said.

In the European study, people who were drinking coffee tended to have lower levels of inflammation, healthier lipid profiles and better glucose control compared with those who weren’t. It is still unclear which particular compounds provide health benefits, but Gunter said he would be interested in exploring this further.