Is Coffee an Anti-Aging Superfood?

How Your Morning Brew Can Lengthen Your Life

French press full of coffee sitting on a table
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Drinking coffee could help lengthen your life, according to some studies. That's right, coffee joins dark chocolate and wine as an anti-aging superfood. But, as with those other foods, the story isn't quite as simple as "the more you have, the longer you'll live." Find out the good and bad about coffee and how it functions as an anti-aging food.

Coffee: An Anti-Aging Drink?

Coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in Americans' diets.

In fact, more than half of the people in the U.S. drink coffee every day. That may be one reason to look towards coffee as a beverage that could help increase life expectancy.

A November 2015 study in the journal Circulation found that people who drank three to five cups daily had a 15 percent lower risk of premature death. That result included decaf as well as regular caffeinated coffee. Coffee drinking was linked to fewer deaths from heart disease, neurological disease, and suicide. It did not correlate to death from cancer. As with many studies on coffee, this type of study was epidemiological, meaning it looked at a broad swath of the population and observed trends in their behaviors and in their health outcomes.

More recently, two 2017 studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine correlate coffee drinking with a longer lifespan. A large European study found those participants who drank the most coffee had a 10 percent lower risk of dying from any cause compared to those who didn't drink any coffee at all.

Another study based in California and Hawaii included over 85,000 participants including African Americans, Native Hawaiians, Japanese Americans, Latinos, and whites aged 45 to 75 years. Compared with drinking no coffee, coffee consumption was associated with lower total mortality (for both regular and decaffeinated coffee).

Of course, just like the 2015 study, these were epidemiological studies and can't prove that drinking coffee adds years to your life, just a correlation. It's possible that coffee drinkers may also have other common lifestyle habits that are beneficial for health.

Why Is Coffee a Superfood?

Coffee has two main components that may influence your health: antioxidants and caffeine. Both these substances have health and anti-aging benefits. Antioxidants, for example, help your body repair damage to cells caused by free radicals (which are produced as a byproduct of cells just doing their daily thing). Caffeine has been shown to help improve a range of symptoms and may even be important in fighting off Parkinson’s disease and other age-related brain problems. Coffee is loaded with both antioxidants and caffeine, and each has different potential benefits for improving health and reducing the risk of chronic illnesses.

Health Benefits of Coffee

In addition to longevity, coffee has been linked to these health benefits:

  • heart disease (up to 25 percent reduction in mortality risk for women)
  • diabetes (up to 60 percent reduced risk)
  • dementia (up to 65 percent reduced risk)
  • colon cancer (up to 25 percent reduced risk)
  • cirrhosis (up to 80 percent reduced risk)
  • gallstones (almost 50 percent reduced risk)
  • Parkinson’s disease (up to 80 percent reduced risk – probably because of caffeine)
  • headache relief (because of the caffeine)
  • asthma relief (caffeine again)
  • cavity protection (because of antibacterial and anti-adhesive properties of compounds within coffee)

Health Risks of Coffee

Although the research is overwhelmingly positive, there are still some cautions about drinking coffee. For one, some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine. It can cause insomnia and jitteriness, especially in higher amounts. For pregnant women, a caffeine cap of 200 mg per day is recommended – beyond that there's an increased risk of miscarriage.

Nursing women, too, should consider their total caffeine intake, as high amounts of caffeine can cause restlessness and sleeplessness in their babies.

Sources:

Ding M, Satija A, Bhupathiraju SN, Hu Y, Sun Q, Han J, Lopez-Garcia E, Willett W, van Dam RM, Hu FB. Association of Coffee Consumption With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in 3 Large Prospective Cohorts. Circulation. 2015 Dec 15;132(24):2305-15.

Gunter MJ, Murphy N, Cross AJ, Dossus L, Dartois L, et.al. Coffee Drinking and Mortality in 10 European Countries: A Multinational Cohort Study. Ann Intern Med. 2017.

Loftfield E, Freedman ND, Graubard BI, Guertin KA, Black A, Huang WY, Shebl FM, Mayne ST, Sinha R. Association of Coffee Consumption With Overall and Cause-Specific Mortality in a Large US Prospective Cohort Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2015 Dec 15;182(12):1010-22.

Park SY, Freedman ND, Haiman CA, Le Marchand L, Wilkens LR, Setiawan VW. Association of Coffee Consumption With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Nonwhite Populations. Ann Intern Med. 2017 Jul 11. 

Pereira MA, Parker ED, Folsom AR. Coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: an 11-year prospective study of 28 812 postmenopausal women. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Jun 26;166(12):1311-6.

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