Photo (cc) by Ahmed Rabea
Some people can’t function without coffee — but heavy drinkers have a higher risk of death, new research says.
The study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, suggests having four or fewer cups (8 ounces each) a day if you are under age 55. Drinking more than that was associated with a “56 percent increased risk of death from all causes,” NPR says. For women, it was significantly higher — more than a 200 percent increase.
The results are puzzling, though.
While the study was both large and long — including more than 40,000 people over three decades — it seems to contradict other recent research that suggests drinking up to six cups a day poses no additional risk, NPR says. Recent research also suggests that coffee drinking does not increase the risk of death from heart disease, stroke or cancer, and that having some coffee may even provide health benefits.
Here are some other factors to consider when weighing this particular study:
- While people as old as 87 participated in the research, the study concluded that people over 55 had no increased death risk from heavy coffee drinking. It’s not clear why.
- The study may not have controlled well for smoking, one expert says. The results show heavy coffee drinkers were also likely to be heavy smokers, so the increased risk may have little to do with coffee.
- While the study uses data collected for more than 30 years (from 1971 to 2002), the average participant was followed for 17 years and only asked once, ever, about coffee consumption. Their habits may have changed from that interview, but the study assumed they hadn’t.
So what’s the bottom line for this problematic study? At the very least, it’s another data point suggesting that a little daily coffee is OK.
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