Wake up and smell the coffee

Coffee is one of those drinks that has seen a lot of myths grow up around it. It stunts your growth! Pregnant women should steer clear! It’s bad for the heart! It dehydrates you!

Someone out there is determined to make your humble mug of Joe the bad guy.

The good news is if you’re sensible, there’s really not much substance behind any of these fears. About the worst we can say most of the time is that too much before bed can prevent sleep.

But there’s now evidence that, far from being bad for us, plenty of coffee may be key to keeping us going longer. Not just through the day, but through life. That’s right, new research suggests that doesn’t just cut our chances of regular sleep, it may also help us avoid the big sleep.

The Spanish research team found that those drinking 4 cups of coffee a day lowered their risk of early death via any cause by as much as two thirds.

Hot take

Researchers from Hospital de Navarra looked at the coffee habits of 20,000 men and women aged between 25 and 60 over the course of 14 years. Before starting volunteers gave data about their eating and drinking habits, as well as general lifestyle and health issues.

They found that every two extra cups were linked to a 22% drop in death rate. Among older participants this was higher still, at 30%. When team caffeine were hitting 4 cups their risk was 64% lower than those who rarely if ever enjoyed a cuppa. In your FACE mineral water!

Before coffee makers start scrambling to rebrand their products, ‘Invincibility Juice’ though, it’s worth mentioning this was an observational study. That means there’s not enough info here to prove a direct line between java and long life. Yet it’s a strong indicator at least.

This work comes on the heels of American studies claiming as few 3 cups can have health benefits. Not just seeing us safely into old age but also improving liver function, boosting the immune system and reducing inflammation.

The reason for all these advantages is not entirely understood, but theories include the protective influence of coffee’s caffeine, diterpenes and antioxidants. The fact that decaffeinated coffee has also proved useful in some trials though seems to rule out the purely stimulant theory.

Even if the magic ingredient remains a mystery, lead author Dr Adela Navarro seems convinced,

‘I would advise drink plenty of coffee, it could be good for your heart. I think it’s a good idea to have about four cups a day. I think it’s the polyphenols, they have an anti-inflammatory effect.’

Coffee, black, keep it coming

Woah there. It’s true this new study provided no upper limit and their was a trend towards more coffee intake cutting the risk even further. But before you go snorkling in a vat of espresso, remember as with everything in health, balance is vital. If you go overboard there likely will be some drawbacks.

So what counts as overboard? Well a recent review of 749 studies published in Food and Chemical Toxicology reaffirmed existing guidelines are safe. For the record, that’s 400mg daily for adults, 300mg for pregnant women and 2.5mg for kids and teens.

Going beyond this guide dose regularly too often can negatively effect you in a number of areas. Bone health, behavioral changes, insomnia and stomach problems are all risks of seriously over doing it.

Luckily though the 4 cup sweet spot is in line with safe limits.

What it boils down to

Look, more work needs done to establish if the fountain of youth is in fact a coffee pot. Until there’s firm cause and effect link the best way to ensure you keep going is still a healthy lifestyle.

There’s no reason why 4 cups of coffee can’t be a part of that though. Used correctly, caffeine can be a useful weight loss tool and provide energy for workouts.

So our advice is to pairing your 4 cups a day with diet and exercise for the moment. We’ll let you know when and if you can start pairing it with a 20 deck of cigarettes and your weight in candy bars or beer.

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