Cure in a coffee cup?

If you’ve caught yourself saying you’re dying for a coffee, researchers may have found there’s some truth in this flippant remark.

A new study has found between three to five cups of coffee a day may help you live longer than those who abstain or drink less.

But Bupa’s National Medical Director Dr Rob Grenfell says an espresso may not be the elixir of life some studies claim it to be.

The new research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found those who consumed a moderate amount of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee had a lower risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, and type 2 diabetes.

According to the first author of the study, it’s the bioactive compounds in coffee that reduces insulin resistance and systematic inflammation - but exactly how this could explain the findings of the research is not yet understood.

As part of the study almost 210,000 US medical professionals were asked to fill out food questionnaires every four years for three decades.

During the study period almost 32,000 participants died from a range of causes.

Among a pool of participants living with cardiovascular and neurological diseases and type 2 diabetes, researchers found a correlation between moderate coffee consumption and living longer.

However Dr Grenfell says that studies which spruik the benefits of red wine, chocolate and coffee can often appeal to what people want to hear and the evidence for the health benefits of these foods is not very strong.

“Coffee is not a magic pill. However, people who are consuming two cups a day generally have a healthier outlook than those who don’t consume any at all, and also people who consume more than six,” says Dr Grenfell.

“What that really tells us is people who live a moderate life tend to do better than those who live a life of excess in various areas.”

“Someone who  only drinks one or two cups of coffee a day is likely to have a moderate approach to other activities in their life, like exercise and eating a healthy diet,” Dr Grenfell says.

Dr Grenfell says there is evidence that drinking too much coffee is harmful for some people, including children and pregnant women.

“And anyone who has a heart condition and drinks more than 6-8 espressos a day may in fact be doing some harm to themselves,” says Dr Grenfell.

And it’s important to be mindful of how we take our coffee.

“If you’re having large amounts of milk, cream, or sugar then you’re putting a lot more kilojoules or calories into your diet,” says Dr Grenfell.

“There’s no single quick fix to a healthy life but you can rest assured that having one or two cups of coffee a day is not going to do too much harm to your health, provided you’re not having too much added sugar or large quantities of full fat milk while you’re drinking it.”

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