Coffee has already been shown by numerous studies to do plenty of wonderful things for your body.

For example, it’s well-known that coffee boosts concentration and reduces the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

New research takes this good news a step further, showing that coffee lowers the risk for death from a wide variety of major diseases. In fact, it’s the largest study to ever look at the link between coffee and health.

After hearing about that report, my main question was, how many cups do you really have to drink to potentially tack on years to your life? Is it a practical amount…or one of those absurd laboratory amounts that you often see in studies?

BREWING HEALTH BENEFITS

At the start of the study, researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland, gave questionnaires to more than 400,000 men and women ages 50 to 71 and asked them to report their coffee intake. They noted whether they drank mostly caffeinated or decaf coffee, what type (regular ground, instant, espresso, etc.) and whether they added products such as cream or sugar.

Results: Regardless of the drink’s caffeine content, the way the coffee was made or how much milk and/or sugar was used, the more coffee that people drank—up to about five cups a day—the lower their risk for death at the end of the 13-year study from health problems including heart disease, respiratory conditions, diabetes, stroke and infection. Check out this chart…

 

Coffee per day Reduced risk of dying

8 ounces 5% to 6%
16 to 24 ounces 10% to 13%
32 to 40 ounces 12% to 16%
48 ounces or more 10% to 15%

 

Alas—no association was seen between coffee and death from cancer.

Results differed a little bit between men and women, with the association being slightly stronger for women than men.

MO’ JOE, ANYONE?

When I spoke with lead researcher Neal D. Freedman, PhD, a cancer prevention fellow at the National Cancer Institute, he noted that coffee’s association with a lower death risk doesn’t mean that a cause-and-effect relationship between the two was established.

And it’s impossible, at this point, to know exactly what properties of coffee may be helpful in preventing death. Coffee’s most famous constituent is caffeine, of course, but in reality coffee contains more than 1,000 compounds, including antioxidants and many others. Any of these could play a role.

Back in the mid-1990s, when the study began, a typical cup of coffee out on the street was actually a cup—about eight ounces. But with the rise of specialty coffee shops, today’s “cup” is more like two or three cups. (Starbucks’ “venti” large size for a hot beverage, for example, is 20 ounces or two and one-half cups—and for a cold beverage, it’s 24 ounces or three cups.) So if you’re downing a few of today’s “mega-cups” of coffee each day, you’re getting more ounces than you might realize. But that seems fine. In some people, lots of coffee can lead to side effects, such as the jitters and insomnia—but this study suggests that there’s perhaps also a fantastic benefit to America’s big coffee habit.

Comment below to share how you make the perfect brew!