Coffee Prevents Death

Coffee is associated with lower death rates

A new analysis of three different studies totaling almost 300,000 people looked at the association between coffee consumption and mortality.(1) The researchers had data from 4,690,072 person-years, which can probably be characterized as “more than adequate”. The researchers found that coffee prevents death.

Mortality rate by consumption for never-smokers was:

  • 0.94 for ≤ 1 cup a day
  • 0.92 for 1.1 to 3 cups a day
  • 0.85 for 3.1 to 5 cups a day
  • 0.88 for > 5 cups a day

Significant inverse associations were found between coffee drinking and

    • cardiovascular disease
    • neurological diseases
    • suicide

This is not by any means the first study that has found such a relationship. For example, another one that looked at around 400,000 people found very similar hazard ratios and effect on diseases, but additionally reported effects on mortality due to respiratory diseases, infections, stroke, injuries and accidents, and diabetes; again, cancer deaths were not affected.(2)

What’s the mechanism of coffee’s effect on death? There are likely to be several.

Coffee causes hormesis

Coffee promotes autophagy.(3) A higher level of autophagy, the cellular self-cleaning process that rids cells of junk proteins and structures, as well as infectious agents, is characteristic of youth and health. Therefore, coffee’s effects are similar in this regard to intermittent fasting or exercise.

Altogether, these results indicate that coffee triggers 2 phenomena that are also induced by nutrient depletion, namely a reduction of protein acetylation coupled to an increase in autophagy. We speculate that polyphenols contained in coffee promote health by stimulating autophagy.

Coffee promotes insulin sensitivity.(4)

…caffeinated coffee was positively related to insulin sensitivity and decaffeinated coffee was favourably related to measures of beta cell function. These results provide pathophysiological insight as to how coffee could impact the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Coffee lowers inflammatory markers.(5)

Coffee is an antidepressant.(6) Hazard ratio for depression in those consuming 4 or more cups daily was 0.80 compared to those consuming

Coffee prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s.(7) Drinking 3 to 5 cups a day was associated with a 65% decreased risk of dementia/Alzheimer’s in late life.

Lots of other studies could be cited, but you get the idea.

At least two possible components of coffee could explain these results: caffeine, and phytochemicals, the latter mainly polyphenols.

In many of these studies it was found that tea had little to no effect, and in my view caffeine may explain the difference. Coffee just has a lot more caffeine than tea, over twice as much typically, and many of these associations with coffee were seen at high doses.

As for the polyphenols, some of the associations were also seen with decaffeinated coffee. For instance, the study on coffee and autophagy found that decaffeinated coffee stimulated autophagy equally as well as caffeinated.

Coffee (and tea) polyphenols stimulate the Nrf2 transcription factor, which mobilizes the body’s antioxidant stress-defense mechanisms.(8) As such, coffee is an agent of hormesis, the process through which low doses of a toxic chemical produce healthful effects, and the process which is fundamental to health and long life.

Coffee and tea inhibit the absorption of iron.(9)

So drink up. There appears to be little downside to coffee drinking. It doesn’t even increase the risk of something you might expect it to, atrial fibrillation.(10)

(Thanks to George Henderson for the evocative phrase that titles this post.)

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19 comments
Shawn says November 17, 2015

That’s all very interesting. But personally, I’ve noticed that even just a cup of coffee makes it more difficult for me to get a good night’s sleep, even if it’s consumed in the morning. Apparently even decaf has caffeine in it. Good sleep prevents death so I’m going to continue to avoid coffee. I’m probably an outlier in terms of caffeine sensitivity though. I know some people who can drink cups of regular coffee right before bedtime and they say that it doesn’t affect their sleep at all.

Reply
    JRM says November 22, 2015

    try supplementing molybdenum. It is involved in breaking down caffeine.

    Reply
Philomathean says November 17, 2015

Coffee tends to trigger panic attacks in me. More often than not I get this vauge sense of impending doom, which I also experience from energy drinks as well.

I drank a cup with 200ml of L-theanine the other day and was treated to the most intense coffee induced panic attack I’ve had in a decade. It lasted about 15 minutes. Again, the episode can be summarized as an undefinable sense of impending doom.

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teckwyn says November 19, 2015

I drink coffee occassionally – maybe one cup a month. I find it hard to sleep after drinking it (and even strong tea keeps me awake). I plan to experiment with having a small cup of coffee on my fasting days.

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    P. D. Mangan says November 20, 2015

    Coffee is the bomb for fasting: it cuts appetite and gives you energy. Tea works well for fasting too.

    Reply
      simeon says November 21, 2015

      I’ve wondering about this. I usually drink coffee in the morning and green tea in the afternoon. But when I’m fasting, I worry about the antioxidants in green tea stopping autophagy so it’s all coffee. Any thoughts?

      Reply
        P. D. Mangan says November 22, 2015

        Simeon, green tea won’t stop autophagy. This misconception comes from the notion of antioxidants. True antioxidants dampen free radicals, and these are mainly vitamin C and E. The “antioxidants” in green tea and other similar sources in reality are hormetic agents, which increase stress defense mechanisms leading to lower free radical levels. Coffee is also often said to be the largest source of “antioxidants” for the average American, but the same thing is going on here, and coffee, like green tea, *promotes* autophagy.

        So drink up.

        Reply
José Carlos Barbosa says November 19, 2015

I don’t seem to have any issues with coffee. Maybe because I’m a melancholic type. I can even drink it after supper (evening meal), and then falling asleep is still easy for me. Nevertheless, I limit it to two or three cups a day: a large one for breakfast and a small one after the meals.

Reply
    P. D. Mangan says November 20, 2015

    I tend to have only one cup in the morning, and tea the rest of the day.

    Reply
Harpo says November 21, 2015

Did the researchers take into account the probable use of sweeteners or dairy products by many of the participants in the study. Would sugar or stevia affect autophagy?

Reply
    P. D. Mangan says November 21, 2015

    Sugar would affect autophagy, but stevia will not, since it has zero calories. Also, if the amount of sugar were a teaspoon or on that neighborhood, the effect on autophagy is fairly transient. Other food would count for a lot more in that case.

    Reply
Ohriginal says November 24, 2015

I’d worry that there were no blinded studies about the benefits of coffee. It could easily be that productive people who drink coffee to get up for work are more likely to make better life choices than dregs who don’t work and don’t need to drink coffee.

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Lion says December 3, 2015

my issue with coffee is I like my coffee sweet

which means lots of sugar and cream

which is a no no for me if I plan to drink it everyday, so I rarely drink coffee

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Michael Fischer says January 8, 2016

There are many studies that support the benefits of coffee for long term health but also many studies that show concerns about consumption and risks for hypertension and heart disease. In the case of the latter, the studies demonstrate a growing theme about the role of genetics in determining an individual’s response. In this case it is the ability of one’s cytochrome P450 CYP1A2 detoxification enzyme that makes the difference – slow means increased risk and this function is scripted in the genome. Similarly, high powered studies in the December 2015 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that one’s response to carbohydrates by insulin is also genetically determined so that for one person a high carbohydrate diet may cause problems and for another high protein can trigger insulin resistance. The bottom line is that people need to get their genome analyzed. 23 and Me won’t provide that information, Pathway Genomics offers such testing.

Reply
Coffee, tea, and red wine prevent disease - Rogue Health and Fitness says February 14, 2016

[…] Coffee, tea, and red wine all have notable health benefits, lowering risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer in epidemiological and lab animal studies. There’s been a lot of debate as to how it all works, and multiple mechanisms may be involved. For instance, all three of these can evoke hormesis, the compensatory rise in cellular defense that occurs upon exposure to small doses of toxins. […]

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Belovar says October 31, 2016

According to this article http://www.marksdailyapple.com/coffee-and-insulin-fat-and-post-workout-meals/, coffee decreases insulin sensitivity, but at the same time does some other things so that it’s still good for fat burning. Any thoughts on this?

Reply
    P. D. Mangan says October 31, 2016

    Well, as Mark says, that’s a necessary component of lipolysis and free fatty acids. Coffee also is associated with longer life. All in all, coffee seems a very good thing.

    Reply
How to Make Cheap Anti-Aging Supplements - Rogue Health and Fitness says February 5, 2017

[…] ingredients of both of these. Chlorogenic acid, an ingredient of Longevinex, is found abundantly in coffee, and may provide many of its benefits. And I do drink […]

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Coffee, Whiskey, and Cigars Longevity Diet - Rogue Health and Fitness says February 8, 2017

[…] doing so, he’s not raising his blood sugar or contributing to insulin resistance. Coffee is also associated with better health and a longer life, and inhibits iron […]

Reply
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