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How Coffee and Tea May (Or May Not!) Help You Live Longer

Overview of the Research

There has been a surge in research publications lately about our favourite morning beverages, and the findings suggest that tea and coffee may help us live longer, healthier lives.  Here is a quick overview:

  • An article published in Annals of Internal Medicine in May 2022, found that people who drink coffee (either unsweetened, or sweetened with sugar) were likely to live longer than those who didn’t drink coffee, or drank coffee with artificial sweetener. The protective effects were most evident in people who drank 2-4 cups per day.  
  • A study published in PLoS Medicine in November 2021 found a link between tea and coffee consumption and a reduction in strokes and dementia.  Compared to those who did not drink tea or coffee, drinking 2-3 cups of coffee, and 2-3 cups of tea per day was associated with a 32% lower risk of stroke, and a 28% lower risk of dementia. 
  • A study published in Annals of Internal Medicine in September 2022 found that people who drink 2 or more cups of black tea daily lived longer and were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. 
  • A study published in the Journal of Preventive Cardiology in September 2022 found that people who drink 2-3 cups of coffee daily had significant reductions in the incidence of cardiovascular disease.
  • Other studies have suggested that coffee may be good for your liver, may lower your risk of Parkinson’s Disease, and reduce your chances of getting Type 2 Diabetes. 

Before We Get Too Excited

These results might have you plugging in the kettle, but not so fast.  Researchers and physicians are not quite ready to prescribe caffeinated beverages, and here is why:

  • There are limitations to the research.  The beverage intake was based on self-reporting, which can be inaccurate.  Most of these studies were based on subjects who are predominantly Caucasian, and the findings may not be applicable to populations of other ethnicities.  And perhaps most importantly, despite their efforts to clean the data, it is possible that other dietary or lifestyle factors were impacting the results.
  • While researchers have documented these correlations between coffee and tea and good outcomes, they don’t yet have evidence of why this is occurring.  The theory is that the benefits come from the antioxidants, and not the caffeine, but more research is needed.

The Dark Side of Coffee & Tea

Despite these potential benefits, caffeine consumption brings some risks:

  • It can cause insomnia, nervousness, irritability, accelerated heart rates, and muscle tremors.
  • Caffeine is addictive; abruptly stopping caffeine consumption can lead to withdrawal symptoms like extreme tiredness and headaches.
  • Caffeine can interact poorly with several medications including over-the-counter remedies and herbs.  Checking with a doctor or pharmacist can be helpful.

So now what?

Most experts recommend limiting caffeine to 400 mg/day (roughly 4 cups of coffee).  If you are drinking a moderate amount of caffeine, if it doesn’t interact with your medications or make you feel unwell, keep enjoying it.  But stay tuned for more research; this is an area of increasing activity, perhaps because we all love our morning beverages so much!

For more reading:

Gunnars, Kris. “Why Is Coffee Good for You? Here Are 7 Reasons.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 30 Apr. 2018, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/why-is-coffee-good-for-you .

Inoue-Choi, Maki, et al. “Tea Consumption and All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality in the UK Biobank: A Prospective Cohort Study: Annals of Internal Medicine: Vol 175, No 9.” Annals of Internal Medicine, Sept. 2022, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36037472/

Pass, Will. “Coffee Drinkers – Even Those with a Sweet Tooth – Live Longer.” Medscape, Medscape, 1 June 2022, https://wb.md/3CyiMYX  

Sharon Worcester, MA. “Drinking Black Tea Linked to Lower Risk of Dying from CVD.” Medscape, Medscape, 31 Aug. 2022, https://wb.md/3RviXIE   Zhang, Yuan, et al. “Consumption of Coffee and Tea and Risk of Developing Stroke, Dementia, and Poststroke Dementia: A Cohort Study in the UK Biobank.” PLOS Medicine, Public Library of Science, 16 Nov. 2021, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34784347/

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