Higher Coffee Intake Tied to Lower Mortality Risk

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Marcia Frellick

Higher coffee intake is linked to significantly lower risk for death, two large studies confirm. The benefit was found in diverse European populations, as well as across different racial/ethnic groups, researchers report in articles published online today in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Because coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the United States and worldwide, the public health effect of coffee intake could be substantial, even if the effect on an individual is small.

Despite mounting evidence for the health and mortality benefits of coffee consumption, the relationship between coffee intake and mortality in different European populations in which coffee preparation methods vary has been unclear. Similarly, data on coffee drinking among nonwhite populations were lacking.

The two new studies address those gaps.

In EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition), a large, prospective cohort study, Marc J. Gunter, PhD, from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France, and colleagues examined the association of coffee intake with all-cause and cause-specific mortality among 451,743 participants (130,662 men and 321,081 women) in 10 European countries.

“[O]ur results suggest that higher levels of coffee drinking are associated with lower risk for death from various causes, specifically digestive and circulatory diseases,” the authors write.

During a mean follow-up of 16.4 years, 41,693 deaths occurred.

In a multivariable model, men who drank three or more cups of coffee per day had a 12% lower all-cause mortality than non–coffee drinkers (hazard ratio [HR], 0.88; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.82 – 0.95; P for trend < .001); women had a 7% lower mortality (HR, 0.93; CI, 0.87 – 0.98; P for trend = .009).

In terms of cause-specific mortality, men who drank three or more cups of coffee per day had a 59% lower risk for digestive disease mortality than men who drank no coffee or less than one cup per day (HR, 0.41; CI, 0.32 – 0.54; P for trend < .001). Women who drank three or more cups had a 40% reduction in risk (HR, 0.60; CI, 0.46 – 0.78; P for trend < .001).

The researchers also found a strong inverse association between coffee consumption and circulatory disease mortality among women (HR, 0.78; CI, 0.68 – 0.90; P for trend < .001). The benefit was particularly large for risk for death from cerebrovascular disease in women (HR, 0.70; CI, 0.55 – 0.90; P for trend = .02). Among men, there was a trend for a small benefit, but individual comparisons were not significant.

However, the authors also found a significant increase in risk for ovarian cancer mortality (HR, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.07 – 1.61]; P for trend = .015).

The mortality benefit was the same for caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, the authors add. They emphasize the need to interpret these findings with caution because not all EPIC centers collected data on decaffeinated coffee intake.

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