Does a cup of coffee a day lead to a longer life?

September 29th is International Coffee Day. Wondering where Canada stands in the global game of coffee consumption?

Not surprisingly—judging by the number of coffee shops dotting any busy street in Canada—our country ranks #10 in the top 25 coffee-drinking nations in the world, with 6.5 kg per capita.

The question is, are all those cups of java good for us—and in particular, for seniors?

There’s been a debate for many years about the positive and negative health benefits of coffee, from a seventeenth-century claim that coffee cured alcoholism to a 1916 headline that reported that coffee stunts growth.

However, over the past few years, the evidence for coffee as a health booster has begun to pile up. The latest 2017 research that included two major studies with a combined total of over 700,000 participants in Europe and the U.S. found that drinking coffee can actually lead to a longer life.

In the European study, researchers found that heavier java drinkers had a 7% to 12% lower risk of dying prematurely versus those who didn’t drink coffee. As well, they were less likely to have digestive and heart conditions.

There was also no notable difference in decaf versus caffeinated coffee in terms of benefits, suggesting that other factors other than caffeine may be the powerhouse disease fighters. These could include antioxidants and compounds that fight inflammation, a leading contributor to many chronic conditions connected to premature aging.

The U.S. study focused on 185,000 non-Caucasian people and found similar results: people who drank two to four cups a day had an 18% lower risk of death compared to non-drinkers.

Many other studies show a reduced risk of certain cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

Does this mean that those who don’t enjoy a coffee should immediately join the millions who can’t imagine a morning (or afternoon) without their dark roast?

Researchers say there’s no need for non-drinkers to switch. The underlying reasons for coffee’s health benefits aren’t yet crystal clear, and perhaps the non-coffee drinkers surveyed were unhealthier in the first place—for example, they may have avoided coffee because of a pre-existing health issue.

Of additional interest is that the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that coffee is fine only if it’s not too hot. It turns out that studies show a link between drinking scalding hot beverages (of any sort, including water) and esophageal cancer.

The take-away from all of this? Enjoy your (warm) java every day—and have an extra cup on September 29th!