Why Do Coffee Drinkers Have Lower Mortality Rates?
Today's reading and reflection by this Swedish doctor, who drinks a pot of Gevalia every morning
This week's New England Journal of Medicine (I got the 3/23 issue in the mail today but it is not online yet!?!) has an article that looks at the frequency of premature heart beats in coffee drinkers. There was no difference between the groups of patients randomized to coffee versus other beverages.
One of the references in the NEJM article was an article in the European Journal of Epidemiology. This meta-analysis showed that coffee drinking is associated with up to 15% lower risk of death, cardiovascular disease or cancer.
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The NEJM article also refers to studies that show that coffee drinkers walk 1,000 more steps per day than non-coffee drinkers. And because walking an extra 1,000 steps per day is known to reduce all-cause mortality by up to 15%, they also report the speculation that much of the beneficial effect coffee has on mortality (all-cause, CVD and cancer) could be due to this.
It is worth noting that decaffeinated coffee has similar health benefits to caffeinated coffee. So does decaf, too, make you walk more? I wouldn't think so.
But, in fact, it is well known that coffee has many other bioactive compounds that reduce inflammation, and this has proved to be a more and more important mechanism behind most chronic diseases that affect us today.
But coffee drinking is not as beneficial everywhere. The European Journal of Epidemiology concludes: "An inverse association between coffee consumption and all-cause mortality was maintained irrespective of age, overweight status, alcohol drinking, smoking status, and caffeine content of coffee. By region, Europe and Asia showed stronger inverse associations than US."
(My personal speculation is that the beneficial effect of coffee is blunted in this country because US coffee drinkers often use unnatural "creamers", like Coffee mate, containing sugars, unhealthy fats and carrageenan, all of which cause inflammation and therefore contribute to an increased risk for heart disease, cancer and death.)