The Latest Word on Coffee

In the past 30 years there have been many articles written about coffee – initially stating it was associated with higher risks of pancreatic and other cancers.  Cardiologists for years have been telling patients to cut down or eliminate coffee from their diets. But more studies have come out to refute that early data, and coffee appears to be be ok.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported, “the National Cancer Institute researchers turned to data on 402,260 adults who were between the ages of 50 and 71 when they joined the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study in 1995 and 1996. The volunteers were followed through December 2008 or until they died — whichever came first.” The researchers found that, “compared with men who didn’t drink any coffee at all, those who drank just one cup per day had a 6% lower risk of death during the course of the study; those who drank two to three cups per day had a 10% lower risk, and those who had four to five cups had a 12% lower risk.”

Neal D. Freedman, a National Cancer Institute researcher and the study’s lead author, said, “It offers some reassurance for coffee drinkers,” but “we shouldn’t say coffee is a fountain of youth or anything like that. The biggest concern for a long time has been that drinking coffee is a risky thing to do. Our results, and some of those of more recent studies, provide reassurance for coffee drinkers that this isn’t the case.” Individuals “who are regularly drinking coffee have a similar risk of death as nondrinkers, and there might be a modest benefit.”

Coffee drinkers also were a little less likely to die from specific causes: heart disease, respiratory problems, strokes, injuries and accidents, diabetes and infections. About two-thirds of study participants drank regular coffee, and the rest, decaf. The type of coffee made no difference in the results.

Early on the results indicated that coffee drinkers were at a higher risk, until they removed those patients who smoked. Once that factor was taken care of it appeared that people who drink 4-6 cups of coffee per day had longer lifespan than those who didn’t drink coffee.

As with all population studies correlation does not equal causation – that is, what we know is that coffee consumption doesn’t adversely effect longevity, but it may not improve it either. Nor do we know if there is a single, or multiple factors in the coffee that are responsible for those having less incidence of heart disease, lung disease, infections, or cancer.

Coffee isn't all bad

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and received his MD. Dr. Simpson, then became a renowned weight loss surgeon, and a leading advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he advocates teaching people to improve their health through their food. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcom Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit


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