Could Continuous Coffee Consumption Delay Death?

Articles
February 02, 2009

A "modest benefit" has been attributed to both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee consumption in its ability to reduce the risk of mortality from heart disease in middle aged men and women, wrote Ether Lopez-Garcia, Ph.D., in a recent study outlying the current pluses of coffee drinking. Other studies have suggested that coffee may decrease the risk of some types of cancer, however, this was the first study to assess coffee's relationship with all-cause cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer mortality, Dr. Lopez-Garcia added. The researchers believe that it is not the caffeine in coffee that was the key, because higher levels of consumption of decaffeinated coffee also reduced the risk for all-cause and CVD, albeit modestly, and especially in women. The key, they posit, may be the high level of antioxidants in coffee which are well known to reduce inflammation in the body, a contributing factor to developing heart disease and other diseases. Antioxidants may also reduce the rate of oxidation of LDL cholesterol. None of the participants had CVD at the beginning of the study and the observation is that an inverse relationship between coffee consumption and CVD mortality exists yet no known relationship between coffee consumption and cancer was noted. Actual documented deaths during the 18 years of post study evaluations included 6,888 deaths among men, a little more than a third of which from cancer and one-third from CVD. Among the deaths of women, 11, 094, twice as many died from cancer as from CVD. It should be noted that more than twice as many women than men were part of the follow-up study process

A "modest benefit" has been attributed to both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee consumption in its ability to reduce the risk of mortality from heart disease in middle aged men and women, wrote Ether Lopez-Garcia, Ph.D., in a recent study outlying the current pluses of coffee drinking. Other studies have suggested that coffee may decrease the risk of some types of cancer, however, this was the first study to assess coffee's relationship with all-cause cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer mortality, Dr. Lopez-Garcia added.

The researchers believe that it is not the caffeine in coffee that was the key, because higher levels of consumption of decaffeinated coffee also reduced the risk for all-cause and CVD, albeit modestly, and especially in women. The key, they posit, may be the high level of antioxidants in coffee which are well known to reduce inflammation in the body, a contributing factor to developing heart disease and other diseases. Antioxidants may also reduce the rate of oxidation of LDL cholesterol.

None of the participants had CVD at the beginning of the study and the observation is that an inverse relationship between coffee consumption and CVD mortality exists yet no known relationship between coffee consumption and cancer was noted. Actual documented deaths during the 18 years of post study evaluations included 6,888 deaths among men, a little more than a third of which from cancer and one-third from CVD. Among the deaths of women, 11, 094, twice as many died from cancer as from CVD. It should be noted that more than twice as many women than men were part of the follow-up study process.

The study is one of more than 100 published research articles written by scientists working with the accumulative data of the project that included the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health and funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and National Cancer Institute. Also participating were those in a Nurses' Health Study. Some 86,214 women and 41,736 men participated, all health professionals who were chosen because study designers believed that they were more likely to answer the queries correctly and because of their careers in health, maybe be more willing to participate in such a long-term project.

Both groups were queried on their diet habits including smoking, health conditions, and coffee drinking habits. During the entire follow-up period, from 1980 to 2004, women appeared to have the most benefits. Thos women who drank two or three cups of regular coffee lowered their risk of death by 25% compared to women who did not drink coffee. Additionally, they had an 18% lower risk of death from heart disease or cancer than non-coffee drinking women. Men did not lower or increase their risk of death.

It has also been suggested in other studies that coffee impacts different people in different ways unrelated to their gender or age or genetics, and coffee's antioxidants may be cumulative or get stronger with age. This, too, remains a puzzle for researchers and continues to be a topic for exploration.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and was written by contributors including Dr Lopez-Garcia, Rob M. Van Dam, Ph.D.; Tricia Y. Li, MD; Fernando Rodgriguez-Artalejo, Md., Ph.D., and Frank B. Hu, Md., Ph.D. who represent the National Institutes of Health, a U.S. government agency that supports medical research; plus researchers in Madrid, Spain at Ramón y Cajal Programme, and the American Heart Association. The original study project was conducted at Utah's  Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School in Boston.