Over the last 20 years, the coffee shop culture has become ingrained into the American way of life. Beginning in the early 90s with the rise of boutique coffeehouses and immortalized on televisions shows such as Friends and Seinfeld where characters routinely discussed their troubles over cups of joe, the coffee shop began to fill the role of community clubhouse. Now coffee shops dot the corners of every major city and are often filled at all hours of the day with individuals sipping cups of the intoxicating dark brew.
While coffee consumption has reached an all time high, the results of a new study have called into question American’s love of java. A new study conducted by the New Orleans based Heart and Vascular Institute suggests that individuals under the age of 55 who consume more than three cups of coffee a day have an increased risk of dying at a younger age than individuals who consume less coffee daily.
Researchers found that while small amounts of coffee daily, amounting to no more than 28 cups a week, posed no health risks, once an individual consumed more than that amount their risk of suffering an early death increased, especially among younger coffee drinkers.
This study has sparked some controversy as the healthy benefits of coffee remain in debate among researchers. In recent years, scientists have examined data from a variety of studies designed to determine whether coffee consumption is good for the body, and have found results that suggest drinking coffee, even heavy consumption, can reduce an individual’s risk of developing heart failure, cancer, and a number of other conditions.
The latest study was published in the August edition of the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
A Caffeinated Problem
The problem with trying to determine the exact benefits or determents presented by coffee consumption is the rigorous type of research such a study would require. Scientist would need to assign a group of volunteers to drink large amounts of coffee, while a second control group would have to avoid the beverage. It’s also possible that individuals who tend to drink more coffee share a common trait other than a passion for the dark brew that might impact their health, such as a hyperactive personality, difficulty sleeping, or addictive personality.
For a country that loves its coffee, the possibility the beverage could cause negative health consequences becomes one of serious concern. Over 60 percent of all adults in the U.S. drink coffee daily, consuming on average just over three cups a day, according to a survey conducted by the National Coffee Association.
As part of the study, researchers tracked almost 44,000 people between the age of 20 and 87 for an average of roughly 16 years between 1971 and 2002. Approximately three-quarters of the study participants were men.
During the duration of the study, 2,512 participants died. After adjusting the studies statistics to take into account risk factors known to increase a person’s risk of death, such as smoking, weight, and activity levels, researchers found that individuals who consumed more than 28 cups of coffee in a week were 21 percent more likely to have died. For men and women under the age of 55, their increased risk of death rose to 50 percent when compared to those who drank 28 cups of coffee or less.
Experts skeptical of the study’s claims point out that the study didn’t show a conclusive cause and effect between coffee consumption and risk of death, only a correlation. Furthermore, the results of this study directly conflict with a 2012 National Institutes of Health study that found coffee consumption could help to increase longevity.
While more research is need on the long-term effects of coffee consumption, the preliminary results of this study offer evidence that Americans need to remain alert about how much coffee they drink daily.
Timothy Lemke is a freelance health writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Dave Matthews, a Eugene dentist.