If you love your morning coffee, a new study finds that your daily habit could protect your health. In a study by researchers from the National Cancer Institute in the US, older adults who drank coffee -- caffeinated or decaffeinated -- had a lower risk of death overall than others who did not drink coffee.
The java drinkers -- especially those who drank three or more cups a day -- were less likely to die from a number of illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and infections -- although researchers found no link with cancer. Results of the study were published on Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Head researcher Neal Freedman and his colleagues examined the association between coffee drinking and risk of death in 400,000 American men and women ages 50 to 71 who participated in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study.
"The mechanism by which coffee protects against risk of death -- if indeed the finding reflects a causal relationship -- is not clear, because coffee contains more than 1,000 compounds that might potentially affect health," said Freedman. "The most studied compound is caffeine, although our findings were similar in those who reported the majority of their coffee intake to be caffeinated or decaffeinated."
Still, while more research needs to be done to fully understand the protective components of coffee, Freedman adds that "these results do provide some reassurance that coffee drinking does not adversely affect health."
Coffee has also been shown to improve brain function in mice studies, with researchers probing the possibility of using coffee as a treatment for people with Alzheimer's disease. Researchers in Portugal also recently found that the consumption of caffeine could protect against memory loss associated with advanced diabetes.
Still health experts don't recommend overdoing your coffee intake. The US-based Mayo Clinic suggests no more than two to four cups a day, since more than that can cause insomnia, upset stomach, and anxiety.