A new study of over 500,000 people by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and researchers at Imperial College London has found a significant association between a higher coffee consumption and a lower risk of all-cause mortality. The strongest associations were observed with digestive disease mortality, mainly due to the lower risk of liver disease death, in both men and women. The statistically significant association between coffee drinking and reduced risk of circulatory disease mortality was more pronounced in women than in men.
The study, ‘Coffee drinking and mortality in 10 European countries’, published in Annals of Internal Medicine1 is the largest of its kind, considering data from over 500,000 people across 10 European countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom). The study accounted for variation in consumption and preparation methods, from an espresso in Italy, to a cappuccino in the UK, finding a similar association between consumption and mortality.
The researchers analysed data from people from over the age of 35, all of whom had participated in the EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition). The study was followed up over 16 years, during which almost 42,000 people in the study had died from a range of conditions including cancer, circulatory diseases, heart failure and stroke.
Study participants in the highest quartile of coffee consumption (3 or more cups of coffee per day, with a cup of coffee defined as 237ml) had the lowest rate of mortality from all causes. The researchers found that decaffeinated coffee had a similar effect, however this was difficult to define as consumption figures were not available for all countries and participants may have consumed both types of coffee.
In a subcohort of more than 14,000 participants, biomarkers of liver function, inflammation and metabolic health were also evaluated. The biomarker data indicated that coffee drinkers have a more favourable liver function and inflammatory marker profile than non-coffee drinkers or those with low consumption.
Coffee is a popular drink worldwide and this study provides valuable insights relating specifically to a European population, as previous European studies were smaller and conducted in individual countries where coffee preparation methods tend to be fairly consistent. This new study appears to support previous findings in other populations such as the US and Japan. As the study authors note, its potentially beneficial clinical implications should be carefully considered.