Coffee and life
November 9, 2012
By GARY E. FORESMAM MD
In a recent New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) article, many questions about coffee consumption and mortality were answered. As you know from my article, the complex “herbal” preparation known as coffee has a potent blend of antioxidants and bioflavonoid anti-inflammatory compounds linked to a wide array of health benefits. Despite hundreds of articles linking coffee consumption with a lower risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s, liver disease, and heart disease (just to name a few), you still find people confused, thinking, “Isn’t coffee bad for you?”
In a Puritanical country where nearly everyone is taught “if it feels good it must be bad for you,” I have refreshing news for you. This study follows the NIH-AARP cohort of 229,119 men and 173,141 women (age 50-71 years old) over a 14 year period looking at coffee consumption and cause- specific mortality.
Although there are so many co-variants to consider, here are some simple conclusions.
Compared to non-coffee drinkers, those who drink 4-5 cups of coffee per day have a 12 percent (men) and 16 percent (women) reduction in all-cause mortality. In some cases drinking greater than 6 cups of coffee per day (no limit) added to the benefits, but this was not consistent. Furthermore decaffeinated coffee, in most cases, provided similar benefits to caffeinated coffee.
Breaking it down a bit further, coffee had no effect on cancer mortality for men or women. However, the cause-specific mortality for women at 4 to 5 cups per day vs. 0 cups per day, showed a reduction in death from heart disease of 22 percent, respiratory disease 35 percent, stroke 18 percent, injuries and accidents 36 percent (seems only to relate to caffeinated coffee), infectious disease 40 percent, diabetes 18 percent and other causes 26 percent.
In men the same numbers, still at 4 to 5 cups per day, include a reduction in death from heart disease of 13 percent, respiratory disease 17 percent, stroke 35 percent, injuries and accidents 28 percent (in guys this took greater than 6 cups per day of caffeinated coffee), infectious disease 30 percent, diabetes 20 percent, and “other causes” 29 percent.
Maybe that’s too many numbers for most of you, but undeniably what you see is an across-the-board reduction in mortality from every cause except cancer, in men and women, in decaffeinated and caffeinated coffee drinkers. As this is an observational study based on one questionnaire at the beginning of the trial, one can’t get to the proof of causality. We have thousands of other studies documenting the causative reasons; just no one has a trial covering 14 years with such profound reductions in mortality. Any and all multibillion dollar drugs do not provide this kind of benefit in treating any one of the conditions which coffee treats.
Never let common sense be over-ruled. If you don’t drink coffee because you feel poorly when you do, don’t drink coffee. But when people stop drinking coffee for “health reasons”, they are dramatically worsening their risk of dying from the condition they think they are helping.
That just doesn’t make sense.
Gary E. Foresman, MD is Board Certified and Fellowship Trained in Internal Medicine, Functional, Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine, and a Fellow in Integrative Cancer Therapies. He is President of Middle Path Medicine in Arroyo Grande.
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