The health benefits of coffee have long been debated over – some experts insist we should swap the brown stuff for caffeine-free green tea, while others claim your morning latte helps improve your metabolism and intellectual performance. And now one of the largest studies has come down firmly on the side of the humble bean, suggesting that a solid coffee habit is linked to a lower risk of early death. In fact, it revealed that drinking up to seven cups a day – that's twice the amount recommended by the UK Food Standards Agency – could slash death rates by 16 per cent.
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The study, which was conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health, followed 500,000 adults aged between 38 and 73 for ten years. The participants were given health questionnaires, physical examinations and had biological samples examined. Over the course of the study around 14,200 participants died. Researchers found that participants who drank eight cups or more per day saw their death rates cut by 14 per cent, while this increased to 16 per cent among those who drank six to seven cups. Two to five cups reduced early death rates by 12 per cent. One cup or less than one cup per day resulted in eight and six per cent, respectively.
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"Coffee drinking was inversely associated with mortality, including among those drinking eight or more cups per day and those with genetic polymorphisms indicating slower or faster caffeine metabolism," the authors said. "These findings suggest the importance of non-caffeine constituents in the coffee-mortality association and provide further reassurance that coffee drinking can be a part of a healthy diet."
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Although it's not clear exactly how coffee may be linked to longer life, a previous study found that caffeine consumption can help protect your heart. Researchers from Heinrich-Heine-University and the IUF-Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine in Düsseldorf, Germany, suggested that drinking four cups of coffee a day could help protect cardiovascular cells from damage and even help them repair.