Disclaimer: the following information may be a bit depressing for those of us who consume copious amounts of coffee every day (like I do).
A study put out by Mayo Clinic Proceedings has found a link between drinking 4 or more cups of coffee a day and early death. (defined as under 55). Really?
For the study, the research team followed 44,000 men and women for 17 years, taking into account diet and exercise habits. At the end of the decade and a half research period, 2500 people had died — 87% of them were men. After factoring in certain variables, such as participant lifestyle, they concluded that women who drank more 4 or more cups of coffee per day were twice as likely to die early, while 56% of men were more likely to die young. And here’s the real kicker: they were more likely to die, period, not just from a certain cause, such as a specific type of cancer or cardiac problem. Death from heart disease did not out trump other causes of early death.
Study author Chip Lavie says a causal relationship between coffee and early death wasn’t established, merely an association. He also admits that since the participants were young, they could have had a congenital or genetic problem that went undetected, resulting in early death.
No Need to Panic
I’m taking this study with a grain of salt. Coffee studies are confounding and often contradictory. For example, a 2010 study conducted by the University of Milan showed that those who drink 4 or more cups of coffee a day were 39% less likely to develop head and neck cancers. The only consistency between that study and the Mayo research is the number of cups that seem to have some sort of effect, whether it’s positive or negative.
Then there are the studies that show that caffeine can help lift depression by causing the brain to release endorphins that level out mood, the same hormones that also ease physical pain. Experts suggest that those suffering from joint pain might benefit from drinking a cup of coffee 30 minutes to 1 hour before working out.
So, for now, my office-sized Keurig is staying put. And if you dare touch my coffee mug, you’ll withdraw a bloody stump!