Drinking decaf coffee helps you live longer than shunning all forms of the drink entirely, a study has found.
Two to three cups a day have been found to lower a person’s risk of an early death and developing cardiovascular disease compared to abstainers, irrespective of if it is decaffeinated, ground or instant.
The benefit from the drink, scientists believe, comes from chemicals in coffee beans themselves and not the caffeine.
Data from almost half a million Britons enrolled in the UK BioBank study was analysed by scientists at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia.
People gave their genetic data, answered a thorough questionnaire - including how much coffee they drank - and consented to their medical information being available for analysis.
Participants were grouped into one of six categories based on their daily coffee intake: no cups, less than one, one, two to three, four to five, and more than five cups per day.
Sweet spot was two to three cups a day
Around one in five people said they do not drink any coffee, while almost half say they usually drink instant. One in six said their go-to coffee is ground while 15 per cent reported drinking decaf most often.
During the 12-year follow-up period of the study, a total of 27,809 people died, but people who drank coffee were found to be statistically less likely to die over the study duration than abstainers.
The sweet spot was for people who drank two to three cups per day, data show.
People who drank two to three cups of decaf a day saw their risk of an early death drop by 14 per cent compared to a non-drinker, whereas ground and instant had a reduced risk of death of 27 and 11 per cent, respectively.
Coffee was also found to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by six per cent for decaf, 20 per cent for ground and nine per cent for instant.
“In this large, observational study, ground, instant and decaffeinated coffee were associated with equivalent reductions in the incidence of cardiovascular disease and death from cardiovascular disease or any cause,” said study author Prof Peter Kistler.
“The results suggest that mild to moderate intake of ground, instant and decaffeinated coffee should be considered part of a healthy lifestyle.
“Caffeine is the most well-known constituent in coffee, but the beverage contains more than 100 biologically active components.
“It is likely that the non-caffeinated compounds were responsible for the positive relationships observed between coffee drinking, cardiovascular disease and survival.
“Our findings indicate that drinking modest amounts of coffee of all types should not be discouraged but can be enjoyed as a heart healthy behaviour.”
Coffee drinkers live longer than abstainers
The study is the latest in a long line of coffee-related studies to assess the impact of the drink on human health.
Semmelweis University in Budapest and Queen Mary University of London found earlier this year that three cups a day of ground coffee lowered a person’s risk of heart disease or stroke by 17 and 21 per cent, respectively.
A study from Southern Medical University found in May that coffee drinkers live longer than abstainers even if they add sugar to their drink, adding heft to the theory that it doesn’t much matter how you take our coffee, as the drink itself has wide-ranging health benefits.
Dr Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian at Aston University, who was not involved with the new study, said: “This is yet another observational study which has found that moderate coffee consumption (2-3 cups per day) is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and related risk of mortality.”
She added that a similar benefit on health has been seen before for tea, so the health benefits may not be coffee-specific, but it could be that the sort of people who drink tea and coffee are also the sort of people to be healthier and live longer lives.
The current trove of studies can not prove a causal link, and Dr Charlotte Mills, Hugh Sinclair Lecturer in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading, says there now needs to be randomised clinical trials “to fully understand the relationship between coffee and health”.
The latest findings were published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.