Summary: Those who drink sweetened coffee daily are up to 31% less likely to die within a 7-year follow-up than non-coffee drinkers. Those who drank unsweetened coffee were 21% less likely to die during the follow-up.
Source: American College of Physicians
A cohort study has found that compared to non-coffee drinkers, adults who drank moderate amounts (1.5 to 3.5 cups per day) of unsweetened coffee or coffee sweetened with sugar were less likely to die during a 7-year follow-up period.
The results for those who used artificial sweeteners were less clear.
The findings are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Previous studies observing the health effects of coffee have found that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of death but did not distinguish between unsweetened coffee and coffee consumed with sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Researchers from Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China used data from the U.K. Biobank study health behavior questionnaire to evaluate the associations of consumption of sugar-sweetened, artificially sweetened, and unsweetened coffee with all-cause and cause-specific mortality.
More than 171,000 participants from the U.K. without known heart disease or cancer were asked several dietary and health behavior questions to determine coffee consumption habits.
The authors found that during the 7-year follow up period, participants who drank any amount of unsweetened coffee were 16 to 21% less likely to die than participants who did not drink coffee.
They also found that participants who drank 1.5 to 3.5 daily cups of coffee sweetened with sugar were 29 to 31% less likely to die than participants who did not drink coffee.
The authors noted that adults who drank sugar-sweetened coffee added only about 1 teaspoon of sugar per cup of coffee on average.
Results were inconclusive for participants who used artificial sweeteners in their coffee.
Any accompanying editorial by the editors of Annals of Internal Medicine notes that while coffee has qualities that could make health benefits possible, confounding variables including more difficult to measure differences in socioeconomic status, diet, and other lifestyle factors may impact findings.
The authors add that the participant data is at least 10 years old and collected from a country where tea is a similarly popular beverage.
They caution that the average amount of daily sugar per cup of coffee recorded in this analysis is much lower than specialty drinks at popular coffee chain restaurants, and many coffee consumers may drink it in place of other beverages that make comparisons to non-drinkers more difficult.
Based on this data, clinicians can tell their patients that there is no need for most coffee drinkers to eliminate the beverage from their diet but to be cautious about higher calorie specialty coffees.
Association of Sugar-Sweetened, Artificially Sweetened, and Unsweetened Coffee Consumption With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality
Previous observational studies have suggested an association between coffee intake and reduced risk for death, but these studies did not distinguish between coffee consumed with sugar or artificial sweeteners and coffee consumed without.
To evaluate the associations of consumption of sugar-sweetened, artificially sweetened, and unsweetened coffee with all-cause and cause-specific mortality.
A total of 171 616 participants (mean age, 55.6 years [SD, 7.9]) without cardiovascular disease (CVD) or cancer at baseline were eligible. Baseline demographic, lifestyle, and dietary data from the UK Biobank were used, with follow-up beginning in 2009 and ending in 2018.
Dietary consumption of sugar-sweetened, artificially sweetened, and unsweetened coffee was self-reported. All-cause, cancer-related, and CVD-related mortality were estimated.
During a median follow-up of 7.0 years, 3177 deaths were recorded (including 1725 cancer deaths and 628 CVD deaths). Cox models with penalized splines showed U-shaped associations of unsweetened coffee, sugar-sweetened coffee, and artificially sweetened coffee with mortality. Compared with nonconsumers, consumers of various amounts of unsweetened coffee (>0 to 1.5, >1.5 to 2.5, >2.5 to 3.5, >3.5 to 4.5, and >4.5 drinks/d) had lower risks for all-cause mortality after adjustment for lifestyle, sociodemographic, and clinical factors, with respective hazard ratios of 0.79 (95% CI, 0.70 to 0.90), 0.84 (CI, 0.74 to 0.95), 0.71 (CI, 0.62 to 0.82), 0.71 (CI, 0.60 to 0.84), and 0.77 (CI, 0.65 to 0.91); the respective estimates for consumption of sugar-sweetened coffee were 0.91 (CI, 0.78 to 1.07), 0.69 (CI, 0.57 to 0.84), 0.72 (CI, 0.57 to 0.91), 0.79 (CI, 0.60 to 1.06), and 1.05 (CI, 0.82 to 1.36). The association between artificially sweetened coffee and mortality was less consistent. The association of coffee drinking with mortality from cancer and CVD was largely consistent with that with all-cause mortality. U-shaped associations were also observed for instant, ground, and decaffeinated coffee.
Exposure assessed at baseline might not capture changes in intake over time.
Moderate consumption of unsweetened and sugar-sweetened coffee was associated with lower risk for death.
Primary Funding Source:
National Natural Science Foundation of China, Young Elite Scientist Sponsorship Program by CAST, and Project Supported by Guangdong Basic and Applied Basic Research Foundation.
The Potential Health Benefit of Coffee: Does a Spoonful of Sugar Make It All Go Away?
Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages, and there is a longstanding interest in understanding its health effects.
According to a 2022 estimate, Americans drink 517 million cups of coffee per day, and 66% of Americans surveyed reported drinking coffee within the past day.
Much of the data to date on coffee’s health effects rely on observational studies, and these—including 2 earlier studies published by Annals in 2017 by Gunter and colleagues and Park and colleagues—suggest a U-shaped relationship between coffee consumption and all-cause mortality and other health outcomes; those consuming moderate amounts of coffee daily.