Harvard Women's Health Watch

In the journals: Coffee drinking lowers mortality risk in women

In the journals

Coffee drinking lowers mortality risk in women

For people who enjoy their daily java, findings on coffee's health effects have been largely reassuring. For one thing, older studies linking coffee to health problems such as pancreatic cancer and heart disease were found to be flawed, because they didn't take into account the real culprit: smoking, a habit once common among coffee drinkers. There's no evidence that coffee drinking itself causes cancer. And investigations have found that although coffee temporarily boosts blood pressure and heart rate in some people, moderate consumption (two to four cups per day) doesn't increase the risk for heart disease.

Better still, mounting evidence suggests that coffee drinking — sometimes in large quantities — provides some health benefits, including improvements in memory and performance and a reduced risk for liver cancer, type 2 diabetes, gout, Parkinson's disease, and atherosclerosis (in women only). Now, a large investigation by researchers in Spain and at Harvard Medical School suggests that drinking coffee decreases the risk of premature death, especially in women.

Relative risk of death* by level of coffee consumption

Coffee consumption

Women

Men

1 cup per month to 4 cups per week

2% lower†

7% higher†

5 to 7 cups per week

7% lower

2% higher†

2 to 3 cups per day

18% lower

3% lower†

4 to 5 cups per day

26% lower

7% lower†

6 or more cups per day

17% lower

20% lower†

*Compared with nonconsumers of coffee

†Not statistically significant

Source: Lopez-Garcia E, et al. "The Relationship of Coffee Consumption with Mortality," Annals of Internal Medicine (June 2008), Vol. 148, No. 12, pp. 904–14.

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