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Study: Heavy coffee drinking in people under 55 linked to early death
August 15th, 2013
08:00 PM ET

Study: Heavy coffee drinking in people under 55 linked to early death

When you make coffee with breakfast, or grab a to-go cup at a cafe before work, or raid your office's break room for a cup in the afternoon, you're probably not thinking about how scientists are studying it.

So we'll just tell you: Many studies have looked at the health effects of coffee, even though measuring the potential harms and benefits is not as easy as chugging a shot of espresso. Since a whole range of lifestyle and genetic factors influence a person's physical well-being, it's hard to know exactly if, or how, or to what extent, coffee would be good or bad for anyone's longterm health.

The latest study [PDF], published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found an association between drinking more than 28 cups of coffee a week and an increased risk of death from all causes, in people 55 years old and younger. One cup of coffee is 8 ounces.

That doesn't prove that coffee causes death. It also seems to contradict a study in the New England Journal of Medicine last year, which found that people who drink two or more cups of coffee a day have a reduced risk of dying from particular diseases than those who consume little or no coffee.

And a May 2011 study found that men who drink six or more cups a day had a decreased risk of fatal prostate cancer.

How are we supposed to decide how much coffee to drink, when the information about its health effects is more confusing than a cafe menu written in a foreign language?

Experts say that the optimal dose of coffee varies widely, depending on the person. Different people have different tolerances for coffee.

But in general, the authors of this new study emphasized a message of moderation.

The new study 

Researchers followed more than 40,000 people ages 20-87 for about 16 years.

They observed risks for heavy coffee drinkers in both men and women under 55 who drank more than four cups of coffee a day on average. In men who fit this description, the risk of death was 56% higher compared to non-coffee drinkers. In women, the risk was even greater - it doubled, compared to non-coffee drinkers.

The same association was not observed in individuals 55 and older, or in people who drank coffee in moderation.

"It appears that low doses of coffee are safe," said Carl J. Lavie, study co-author from the John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans. "We did not see anything bad happening up to about 28 cups per week."

He added, "no increase in cardiovascular mortality at any dose in men or women at any age" was seen.

Caveats

But wait! Although study authors found a connection between heavy coffee consumption and death, they did not prove that frequent java indulgence causes death. There may be other underlying factors that explain this association.

"What if people are super hyper, driven, stressed out, drinking 10 cups of coffee a day?" Lavie said. "And it's not the coffee that's killing them, it's the fact that they're stressed out that's killing them."

Lavie still suggests that heavy coffee drinkers scale back on their consumption, however.

"I think that if I find that having four or more cups of coffee per day looks like it's associated with higher mortality, even though I don't know that it's for sure due to the coffee, to me that's enough reason to me to try and keep my coffee to below four a day."

The authors did not separate decaf coffee from regular, but "most people report they drink regular," added Dr. Xuemei Sui, study co-author from the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.

They also did not explore what people were adding to their coffees, so they didn't separate out whether the addition of sweeteners or milk had any effect on death risk.

But what about coffee benefits

There is, on the other hand, evidence from studies on type II diabetes suggesting that coffee can be good.

According to a 2009 meta-analysis, the risk of type II diabetes goes down with each cup of coffee consumed daily. Additionally, a 2007 meta-analysis found a correlation between increased coffee consumption and lower risk of liver cancer.

Such research is still not persuasive enough to tell anyone who doesn't already drink coffee to start.

How much coffee do you drink? 

"A 20 ounce cup, we would count that as two and a half cups," Lavie added.

For perspective, here are some measurements of that cup o' Joe you like to enjoy:

A short Starbucks coffee is 8 ounces. A tall is 12 ounces. A grande is 16 ounces, or two cups of coffee. Make it a venti and you've consumed 20 ounces.

Meanwhile, at Dunkin' Donuts, a small cup of coffee is 10 ounces. A medium contains 14. Order a large and you'll get ounces 20 ounces and XL, 24 ounces, or three cups of coffee.

Experts told CNN in 2012 that they would not make a public health recommendation concerning coffee because there just isn't enough solid evidence to do so.

"If you consume coffee, enjoy it," Dr. Donald Hensrud of the Mayo Clinic said. "But I wouldn't necessarily recommend taking it up if you don't like it."

A lot of people already consider it a regular part of their lives. For nearly two-thirds of Americans, the daily coffee routine is just habit.

Get out of bed. Make coffee. Start your work day.

Have more coffee. Repeat.  Hope it won't kill you.


soundoff (126 Responses)
  1. Skeptimist

    My research shows that money will make you sick.
    That's why I've lived so !@#$%^ long.

    August 16, 2013 at 06:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. PAM

    Black coffee is good for you,its all the other junk people put in their coffee that's not good for you.

    August 16, 2013 at 07:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • docroc

      You've got a point - esp artificial sweeteners and the crap that's in coffee "whiteners"

      August 16, 2013 at 08:57 | Report abuse |
    • OdinVonTogan

      How am I doing with my 1/3 Hot Chocolate, 1/3 English Toffee Cappucino, and 1/3 Black Coffee, in my 20 oz-er that cost me $1.35? other than saving $2.65/day, $13.25 per week, compared to Starbucks, who made $7 billion last year, and is raising their prices next year? Here's a new one, not, some of us don't wanna live forever on this planet full of disgusting, greedy slimeballs.

      August 16, 2013 at 17:45 | Report abuse |
    • skeptical

      Yeah. I get the strangest reactions when I order simply "coffee" at a coffee shop.

      August 17, 2013 at 12:52 | Report abuse |
  3. Live Life

    Instead of worrying about millions of things that will kill you, why don't we just enjoy life. Limit on taking in processed foods, try to achieve a balanced diet, and strive for moderation. We're all going to die one way or another, why not enjoy it while we're still alive?

    August 16, 2013 at 07:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • docroc

      I I agree with you - especially in the context of all the contradictory info that comes out with these reports, one of which tells you why you SHOULD drink coffee while another tells you why you SHOULDN'T. It's just more fadism. Eggs are bad. Eggs are good. Wine is bad. Wine is good. Just more stuff to stoke the national neurosis of food-phobia.

      August 16, 2013 at 08:59 | Report abuse |
    • Redoran

      Five or so years ago the "Food Police" said to avoid broccoli at all costs as it "thins the blood". These tests mean absolutely nothing.

      August 16, 2013 at 12:25 | Report abuse |
    • kadella

      Agree totally- I'm betting ultimately the more attention and stress you give yourself in regards to what is "supposedly' killing or bad for you the worse off you'll be. Live & eat balanced & in moderation & you'll be fine, live to the fullest while we have it!!!!

      August 16, 2013 at 14:59 | Report abuse |
  4. KellyGofAL

    Yeah, it's difficult to take any of these test results seriously. Of those people dying early, how many also smoked, or were obese, or both?

    August 16, 2013 at 08:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. montyhp

    If a study concludes that people who drink a lot of coffee die of a specific disease, then coffee may be implicated in that disease. This study says people who drink a lot of coffee die from a number of different causes. It leads me to believe that heavy coffee drinkers live riskier lives.

    August 16, 2013 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Banjo

    It's the donuts.

    August 16, 2013 at 08:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. moneycoachdan

    I love coffee and I drink a lot of it. I work out almost everyday!! My annual physicals are like I am a 30 year old!! i will be 53 this year. I guess we will see what happens!! I will keep on drinking it, have been since 15 years of age.

    August 16, 2013 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Redoran

      I have been drinking at least 5 cups of coffee a day since, say, 1970. And I will be 70 in December. I do have controllable high blood pressure. BTW- -My opthalmalogist says he has not one patient over 60 that does not have high blood pressure. CNN put that in your pipe and choke.

      August 16, 2013 at 12:29 | Report abuse |
    • John

      @ Redoran: Eat more fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy, and you might be able to get off the blood pressure meds. Google DASH NIH. Worked great for my 68-year-old boss who'd been on meds for years. Good luck.

      August 16, 2013 at 12:41 | Report abuse |
  8. tet1953

    They just told us a few months ago that heavy coffee drinking reduces the risk of heart disease.

    August 16, 2013 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. madman37

    "In men who fit this description, the risk of death was 56% higher compared to non-coffee drinkers."

    So, their risk of death is 156%?

    August 16, 2013 at 09:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tet1953

      Or...non-coffee drinkers have a 44% chance of living forever.

      August 16, 2013 at 09:40 | Report abuse |
  10. Paul

    The study authors chose the wrong group to examine. They should have looked at officers and CPOs in the US Navy. Lots of coffee drinkers and excellent medical records.

    August 16, 2013 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. dt

    Who pays for these studies? Go visit an old farming town and tell me coffee kills. LOL.

    August 16, 2013 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. bs1

    They seem to have missed the obvious – Younger people who drink a lot of coffee are working excessive hours and that is what is driving them to an early death. Those over 55 are either retired, or are at a career point where they aren't working excessive hours or doing a lot of physical labor.

    August 16, 2013 at 11:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GaryB

      Exactly what I was thinking. When I worked for a corporation, I was salaried (ie no overtime) and we were chronically understaffed, so I averaged ten hour of work a day, with some work days stretching to 12 or 14 hours or more. By the time I got home, helped the kids with their homework, ate dinner, helped with the housework, and then sometimes worked on my side business, I was lucky to get four hours of sleep a night. I would drink five or six cups of coffee during the day just to stay functional, but if I'd keeled over, I suspect the lack of sleep and abundance of work-related stress would've been more to blame than the coffee.

      August 16, 2013 at 19:55 | Report abuse |
  13. SheilaKA

    Are they saying that my Swedish great grandmother would have lived longer if she'd not consumed so much coffee? (She died at 97). I guess I'm doomed...I've been drinking lots of it since age 4. Too late to change now.

    August 16, 2013 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • marsilius

      What is being suggested is just that a certain proportion of people might be adversely affected, not that everybdy might be.

      August 17, 2013 at 11:20 | Report abuse |
  14. marc

    Last year coffee made you live longer.

    August 16, 2013 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. sally

    coffee is good for you!

    August 16, 2013 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. sally

    http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/coffee-new-health-food Check this out to all coffee drinkers!!!~

    August 16, 2013 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. MilitaryAF

    So, did these studies take into account the purity said coffee was brewed with? The underlying killer is probably in there...

    August 16, 2013 at 15:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. TracyS

    A link to something does not indicate cause and effect, as is later explained in the article (but not the headline, of course). Canadians and most Europeans, drink more coffee per capita than most people on the planet, and people in Scandinavian countries drink even more. Yet, all of these people have longer lifespans than those in countries where coffee consumption is less, including here in the USA. There are other factors, not coffee, that likely causes earlier death. As the fourth paragraph states, the study "...doesn't prove that coffee causes death." This is also mentioned again in the "Caveats" section of the article. However, this article does make for excellent fear mongering headlines. Congrats on getting me to read it. However, it is B.S., as are most "link association" health research studies. Rarely, very rarely, does a link ever prove to be a cause and effect for poor health.

    August 16, 2013 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. heywood

    So, in other words, this article was utterly pointless and no real new conclusions on coffee's health effects have been truly discovered.

    August 16, 2013 at 16:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Of Course...

      That is why we have CNN, so we can feel foolish only after reading... Try reading their report on why people dont read anymore. lol !

      August 17, 2013 at 00:47 | Report abuse |
  20. Evelyn

    Sooner or later we all have to die.May as well enjoy your coffee cause you are going to die anyway.The question remains just when it will occur .

    August 16, 2013 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Pete

    I didn't see any information on coffee preparation (black vs sugar water), stress levels, or sleeping patterns. I'd be willing to guess that most people who drink excessive amounts of coffee have have stress levels, poor sleeping habits, and add sugar/sweeteners. Numbers never lie, but people do.

    August 16, 2013 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Beni

    Everyday brings something new, coffee is good for you, coffee is bad for you. Just do what you want and live life to its fullest.

    August 16, 2013 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. EaglesQuestions

    Lol.
    Just... lol.

    August 16, 2013 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Portland tony

    Folks that start smoking at 55 (for whatever reason) will probably live longer than those who started at 18.....Friggin Amazing........It's studies like this coffee drinking vs age that make scientists or researchers appear to be blathering idiots!

    August 16, 2013 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Adam

    Just read the study, "Men and women who consumed higher amounts of coffee were more likely to smoke and had lower levels of CRF." – Holy hell, guess it's all that coffee killing them off. More bad science with failed controls.

    August 16, 2013 at 19:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. End_THe MAdness

    I agree!!! I DO NOT understand how people can suck on coffee ALL FREAKIN DAY and not spasam to death.Like,thats all they do,drink drink drink drink coffee all damn day long! SHEESH!!!

    I only drink one nice cup of coffee,and the cup is practically half milk,anyway!

    August 16, 2013 at 20:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. GBfromOhio

    One or two cups of coffee a day is probably OK. FOUR cups of coffee daily, which equates to 131,400 mg of caffeine a year, is NOT. It's not that difficult a concept folks.

    August 16, 2013 at 21:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RobD

    What the authors fail (refuse?) to mention is this consuming the highest amount of coffee, with the greatest risk of death, were alcoholics. Interesting.

    August 16, 2013 at 22:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Simone

    There's always something out there that's going to kill you, I have a better chance of getting hit by a bus than coffee killing me.

    August 16, 2013 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Jade_alpha

    Well looks like I'm headed to an early grave if the bourbon, transfats, butter, and my motorcycle don't get me first.

    August 17, 2013 at 05:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Amala Khan

    Hi
    I am Amala Khan an 11 years old blogger. We are suffering alot.
    I started blogging last year when I was 10 years old.
    I have two blogs. My new blog is:
    http://www.amalakhan.blogspot.co.uk

    August 17, 2013 at 06:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mb2010a

      That's nice, dear...now go drink your coffee and let the adults talk.

      August 17, 2013 at 07:24 | Report abuse |
  32. George

    Coffee killed my father, and raped my sister.

    August 17, 2013 at 07:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Organic1

    I like coffee – nobody gets out alive anyway.

    August 17, 2013 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. John Doe

    Ho hum! Another day . Another study .

    August 17, 2013 at 08:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Caleb Boone

    Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

    We spend too much time considering statistical correlations in medicine.

    We should instead analyze each person's health based upon his or her individual complete medical history and all other details specific to him or her.

    Ordinary brewed coffee is a mild stimulant which should be consumed in moderation if at all.

    But that should be self-evident.

    Have a Dovely.

    Sincerely yours,
    Caleb Boone.

    August 17, 2013 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Mary

    When they need to sell more coffee, coffee good for you. When production is limited and they want to stockpile coffee to sell at a higher price later, then coffee is bad for you. Horsefeathers.

    August 17, 2013 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. allenwoll

    Another dartboard study !

    August 17, 2013 at 12:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Miss Ellie

    Oh...oh... gonna shorten my life?... Well into my 80's and drink at least 4 cups of coffee each day.....

    August 17, 2013 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. FinTastic

    What the @#@#&* is this. With all the coffee I drink I'm either going to live to be 130 of die this afternoon!! My theory is that coffee has been so tested over and over that if there was an obvious link to health benefits or problems, they would have found it by now.

    August 17, 2013 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Bob A. Booey

    BREAKING NEWS! If you've ever eaten a carrot...you will eventually die.

    August 17, 2013 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Bob A. Booey

    My grandparents all drank coffee and then, eventually, they died. Therefore, the only conclusion is: Coffee Kills.

    August 17, 2013 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Harald

    All coffees are not the same. How was it prepared ? What beans were used ? How have the been processed (what degree of toasting was used ?).
    Also, heavy coffee drinkers often happen to be smokers as well. Was that considered in the study ?
    There are just too many variables in order to make this particular article meaningful in any way.

    August 17, 2013 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Moli

    This just in: Living kills you!

    August 17, 2013 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. atlJack

    "I've been told that coffee is a slow poison. Indeed, this must be true as I've drank 12 cups a day these 86 years".

    – Voltaire

    August 17, 2013 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. EdL

    It is amazing that we learn from these constant 'studies', weekly, sometimes daily, all these things we do and eat that are ruining our health if not killing us. At the same time our age expectancies are dramatically increasing. There are learned "researchers' educating us with their continuing 'studies' crying wolf. The more they enlighten us the less they impress. There may be one day when a 'real' one comes along and it may be ignored as well. A weak example might be myself, I was a chain smoker, 3-4 packs a day, for 62 years until I recently quit, (with no strain at all,) have drank more whisky than my share throughout my life, eat a good steak normally twice a week. At 82 I am in perfect health, last saw a doctor in 1966 when I sprained my ankle. These studies by researchers and our medical gurus do not impress me, I ignore them.

    August 17, 2013 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. stanley

    coffee with a little scotch WOW

    August 17, 2013 at 19:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. stanley

    I forgot to mention a cigarette

    August 17, 2013 at 19:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. aspblom

    Too many people live too, too long. Please drink up and a lot.

    August 17, 2013 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Navin Johnson

    I drink on average 2 cups per day which would be 14 cups per week. And that is probably a high average. I am not concerned.

    August 17, 2013 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
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    August 17, 2013 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
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