Long-term coffee drinking does not appear to increase a person's risk of early death and may cut a person's chances of dying from heart disease, according to a new study.
Previous studies have given a mixed picture of health effects from coffee, finding a variety of benefits and some drawbacks from the popular drink. The new study looked at people who drank caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee.
Researchers led by Esther Lopez-Garcia of Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in Spain followed 84,214 US women from 1980 to 2004 and 41,736 US men from 1986 to 2004.
They found that regular coffee drinking - up to six cups a day - was not associated with increased deaths among the study's middle-aged participants.
In fact, the coffee drinkers, particularly the women, experienced a small decline in death rates from heart disease.
The study found no association between coffee consumption and cancer deaths.
"Our study indicates that coffee consumption does not have a detrimental effect," Lopez-Garcia, whose research appears in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, said in a telephone interview. "It seems like
long-term coffee consumption may have some beneficial effects."
There has been a debate among scientists about the health effects of drinking coffee, which typically contains the stimulant caffeine and a number of other important compounds.
The people who took part in the research completed questionnaires on how frequently they drank coffee, other diet habits, smoking and medical conditions.
The researchers then studied the mortality risk over the period of the study among people with different coffee-drinking habits.
The study found that women who reported drinking two to three cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a 25 per cent lower risk of death from heart disease than women who did not drink coffee.
The researchers saw a smaller decreased risk for men but it was not statistically significant.
Drinking decaffeinated coffee was associated with a small reduction in overall mortality risk, the researchers said.
The people in the study had no history of cardiovascular disease or cancer when they entered it. The women were nurses and the men doctors, dentists and other health professionals.
Some studies have indicated coffee is a great source of antioxidants, substances that may protect against the effects of molecules called free radicals that can damage cells and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other ailments.
Recent studies have offered a mixed picture on the health effects of coffee.
A study that came out in January found that pregnant women who drink two or more cups of coffee a day had twice the risk of miscarriage as those who avoid caffeine.
Another study appearing in January found that drinking caffeinated coffee lowered a woman's risk of ovarian cancer.
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