Iced, hot, decaf, espresso — however you prefer yours, coffee is a daily ritual for many. But while you may love the caffeine, coffee doesn't just provide your morning jolt of energy or afternoon pick-me-up. It also offers potential health benefits, many of which are related to longevity.
Longevity does refer to the number of years someone lives, but it's not just about living long — it's about living well during those years, too. Here's a breakdown of the research on how drinking coffee may help you live longer.
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4 Benefits of Coffee for Healthy Aging
1. It's Linked to a Lower Risk of Dying (From Any Cause)
"All-cause mortality" is a phrase that refers to all causes of death. It's often used by medical professionals and researchers to examine how certain habits can raise or lower your risk of dying. In the case of coffee, drinking the right amount may be in your favor.
"Although there is a lot more research needed, there have been some studies showing an association of drinking coffee daily with a lower risk of death," says Danine Fruge, MD, a board-certified doctor and the Medical Director at Pritikin Longevity Center.
It's true: Moderate amounts of caffeinated coffee have been associated with lower all-cause mortality, per an April 2021 study in Nutrients.
Other research indicates that all types of coffee — instant, ground and decaf — may share these benefits. Drinking all of these types of coffee was associated with a significantly lower risk of dying, according to a September 2022 study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. Researchers saw the greatest risk reduction with 2 to 3 cups per day.
"It is also likely that the 100+ biologically active compounds in coffee are responsible for positive relationships observed between coffee drinkers and living longer," Fruge says.
2. It May Support Heart Health
Much of the research on the health benefits of coffee involves heart health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so a heart-healthy lifestyle is essential. Sipping your morning brew may help.
Previous research on the link between drinking coffee and heart disease has been mixed, but newer research is promising. Drinking up to 3 cups per day has been shown to benefit the heart, according to a May 2022 study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. Compared to people that didn't drink coffee, moderate coffee drinking was associated with a lower risk of dying from heart-related events, such as heart attack and stroke.
Coffee can also support heart health in other ways. When the heart is unable to pump blood effectively, you can develop a condition known as congestive heart failure. It affects an estimated six million Americans and is the leading cause of hospitalizations in adults older than 65, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Drinking more coffee was tied to lower long-term risk of heart failure, according to February 2021 research in Circulation: Heart Failure. However, more research is needed in this area.
3. It’s Full of Antioxidants That Protect Against Diseases
Heart disease is often called the "number one killer," but it's not the only leading cause of death. Cancer, stroke, Alzheimer's and diabetes are among the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States, according to the CDC. Coffee can support heart health, but it can also support your well-being in other ways that could stave off common life-threatening diseases.
Antioxidants in food and beverages like coffee may offer some protection against disease. They neutralize free radicals, which can cause cellular and DNA damage that could lead to disease. Antioxidants also help fight inflammation. Fortunately, coffee is full of them. The antioxidants in coffee can reduce oxidative stress (aka free radical damage) and inflammation, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
"Coffee contains many phytonutrients and antioxidants that may play a role in reducing inflammation and protecting against disease," Fruge says. "It may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart failure, Alzheimer's and other diseases."
The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of coffee may reduce the risk of some cancers. Drinking coffee may reduce the risk of developing colon cancer and decrease breakage in DNA strands, which could lead to cancer or tumors, per John Hopkins Medicine. Still, more research is needed.
4. It May Play a Role in Protecting Against Mental Decline
Many rely on their morning dose of java for the noticeable uptick in mental alertness and sharpness. Coffee drinkers may find it easier to concentrate on tasks, thanks to the caffeine.
Age-related changes in the brain can make it more difficult to remember information, learn new things and complete normal tasks. Over time, older adults may experience memory loss or confusion, which can be a sign of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Certain healthy lifestyle habits can help protect against cognitive decline, and drinking coffee may play a part.
"Coffee is linked to better mental functioning, more energy and improved mood due to an increase in dopamine and norepinephrine," says Neil Paulvin, DO, an anti-aging and regenerative medicine doctor. "'It may also play a part in lowering the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases."
The research on how drinking coffee directly affects Alzheimer's risk is limited (for now), according to the Alzheimer's Society. But while many may have previously avoided coffee (or caffeine in general), believing that it actually raises your risk for mental decline, researchers say there's no need to worry.
In fact, they predict that drinking coffee and tea will eventually be a recommended part of a healthy diet considering all the health benefits, according to April 2017 research in Archives in Medical Science.
Coffee and Longevity: How Much Should You Drink?
Despite the health benefits, too much of anything can be a bad thing. Adding sugar or drinking too much coffee can negate some of its benefits, according to the American Heart Association. They point out that much of the research on the benefits of coffee refers to plain black coffee. Too much added sugar from creamers and fancy blended drinks can have negative health effects, and too much caffeine can interfere with your sleep.
You can safely take in up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is about 4 or 5 cups of coffee, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others and may break it down, and therefore feel its effects, quicker than others.
As for coffee's longevity benefits, much of the research on coffee recommends light-to-moderate amounts, or 2 to 3 cups per day, and drinking plain black coffee is likely your best bet. If you don't like plain black coffee, try it with one of our favorite healthy coffee creamer brands, which are low in added sugar and saturated fat.
- European Journal of Preventive Cardiology: "The impact of coffee subtypes on incident cardiovascular disease, arrhythmias, and mortality: long-term outcomes from the UK Biobank Get access Arrow"
- Nutrients: "Coffee Consumption and All-Cause, Cardiovascular, and Cancer Mortality in an Adult Mediterranean Population"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Heart Disease Facts"
- American Heart Association: "Is coffee good for you or not?"
- European Journal of Preventive Cardiology: "Light to moderate coffee consumption is associated with lower risk of death: a UK Biobank study"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Leading Causes of Death"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Heart Failure (Congestive Heart Failure)"
- Circulation: Heart Failure: "Association Between Coffee Intake and Incident Heart Failure Risk: A Machine Learning Analysis of the FHS, the ARIC Study, and the CHS"
- Archives of Medical Science: "Can coffee consumption lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease? A literature review"
- Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience: "Higher Coffee Consumption Is Associated With Slower Cognitive Decline and Less Cerebral Aβ-Amyloid Accumulation Over 126 Months: Data From the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers, and Lifestyle Study"
- John Hopkins Medicine: "9 Reasons Why (the Right Amount of) Coffee Is Good for You"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Coffee"
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is Too Much?"
- Alzheimer's Society: Caffeine and Dementia