Can your coffee habit help you live longer?

Mallika Marshall, MD
Mallika Marshall, MD, Contributing Editor

Whether they take it hot or cold, black or “regular,” many people say they can’t live without it: Coffee. The dark, seductive beverage that has become a staple in the American diet. But when did we become so obsessed with coffee, and is our obsession, in fact, bad for us?

Researchers have some eye-opening answers.

The origins of coffee are unclear. One legend traces it back centuries ago to the forests of Ethiopia, where a goat herder discovered that his animals were energized after eating the red berries of the coffee bush. But wherever it started from, coffee’s popularity soon spread around the globe and eventually reached Europe and the “New World” by the 17th century.

Although tea was initially the beverage of choice for the American colonists, coffee eventually replaced it after the revolt against the taxation of tea by King George III, which culminated in the Boston Tea Party in December 1773. According to the National Coffee Association, Thomas Jefferson reportedly once described coffee as “the favorite drink of the civilized world.”

In modern times, a cup (or more) of brew has become a daily ritual in the US — with meals, at the office, in coffee shops, and at home. It’s available in every possible size and flavor combination, both with caffeine and without. But for years, experts have debated whether coffee promotes health or threatens it.

In search of coffee’s effects on health

Coffee contains antioxidants, which can help protect cells from damage. In some studies, coffee has been shown to have a protective effect against some cancers, as well as  chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and gout. The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant and may help with mental alertness and fatigue.

However, too much coffee can make you jittery, lead to sleep problems, give you headaches, raise your blood pressure, and trigger heart arrhythmias, and it may even promote bone loss.  But is coffee really dangerous? Are coffee lovers putting their lives on the line when they reach for that next cup of java?

To investigate this further, scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health looked at data from three ongoing studies involving almost 300,000 men and women for up to 30 years. The results of their research were recently published in the journal Circulation.

They found that moderate coffee consumption was actually associated with a lower risk of overall mortality, as well as a lower risk of death from heart and neurological diseases. Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee had a protective effect, suggesting that something other than caffeine is at play — perhaps those antioxidants. Heavier coffee drinking did not seem to further decrease the risk of death beyond that of moderate consumption, but it did not seem to increase the risk, either.

In the end, the researchers concluded, “Coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle.”  Great news for the millions of Americans who need only be “dying” for coffee in the most metaphorical sense — and can happily live for it.



    I don’t think so, but it rarely helps pregnant womens..

  2. Jonathan Morgan

    I’m afraid our overall risk of mortality is still 100%, no matter if you drink coffee or not.

  3. CampusCoffee

    If only there were a way to get coffee delivered to your office, home, or to the college campus you are living/working on.


    Thank you for bringing on this topic.

  5. Joint Clinic

    this is great.

  6. Hilos Tensores Clinicas Vicario

    The coffee may improve the energy levels and make you more intelligently the coffee may help people to feel less tired and increase energy levels. This is because it contains a stimulant called caffeine , which is in fact the psychoactive substance most consumed in the world. After drinking coffee , the caffeine is absorbed into the blood circulation . From there, it moves to the brain .
    In the brain, caffeine blocks a neurotransmitter inhibitor called adenosine. When this occurs , IN FACT , the quantity of other neurotransmitters such as noradrenaline and dopamine increases leading to a discharge of neurons. Several clinical trials controlled on humans show that the coffee improves various aspects of brain function .

  7. Dr. Mallika Marshall

    We asked the researchers and they said, “Typically we define moderate coffee drinking as 3-5 cups (8 oz per cup) a day.”

  8. Negatu tefera

    I am convinced that almost anything we do in life, is fine if we do it in moderation in cluding drinking coffee or alcoholic beverages and consuming dairy products. Let’s not be obsessed with any.

  9. Sheetal

    How much ounces per day is recommended for coffee lovers for healthy diet?



  11. Jing Jing

    It reduces my concerns as I am a coffee lover.


  12. Naomi

    How much is “moderate”?

  13. Bryan, PA-C

    Do the benefits of coffee outweigh it’s effect on lower esophageal sphincter tone and subsequent gastric acid reflux and Barrett’s esophagus, etc? Osteoporosis risk related to decreased calcium uptake in the intestines when coffee is in the stomach?

  14. CLAIRE

    I heard that coffee “increases” cholesterol. Is that true? Is there research on this issue?

  15. John Hale

    A medium Black coffee , once a day is good for the heart & soul .