It didn’t take long for another group of scientists to spark up the age old debate; is coffee bad for you, and can it increase an individual’s chances of premature death? According to the latest study, four cups of coffee a day could, indeed, put people at risk.
A group of scientists, headed by Junxiu Liu, recently published an article entitled Association of Coffee Consumption With All-Cause and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality. Their primary goal was to investigate the apparent link between coffee consumption and mortality in a wide range of diseases, including cardiovascular pathology.
Data were accrued from almost 44,000 participants, who engaged in a face-to-face interview, using a set of questionnaires. These same individuals were then given a medical assessment, which consisted of blood chemistries, blood pressure values, electrocardiography (ECG) tests, exercise tests and anthropometric measurements, all of which took place between the year of 1971 and 2002.
The yielded results found a positive correlation between drinking coffee and “all-cause” mortality in men, as well as women under the age of 55. Ultimately, young people drinking over 28 cups of coffee, weekly, were found to be at elevated risk of premature mortality.
Curiously, there was few to no perceived increases in risk for individuals over the age of 55, through coffee consumption. This would seem to suggest, quite plausibly, that there are differences between the two age categories; and, by this, I don’t mean physiological. Would it not be likely to assume that young coffee drinkers might also be engaging in other activities that place them at higher risk of premature death? For example, younger individuals might consume alcohol and smoke socially, to a greater extent than their older counterparts.
However, the study did concede that, generally, coffee drinkers were more likely to smoke; this could explain an additional finding, whereby these individuals had poorer heart and lung functionality.
During the study, only 2,500 of the participants had died. In addition to this, in only a third of these cases was the cause of death associated with cardiovascular pathology.
Across the board, the mortality risk increased, for all-causes, by 56 percent for male and female participants under the age of 55, who were gulping down more than 28 cups of coffee, per week. According to the study, this risk seemed especially high for women belonging to the under 55 category, with a doubling in the risk of death from all-causes, when exceeding four cups a day.
As usual, these results are highly contentious and open to interpretation. On the one hand, several studies have previously expounded upon the medical benefits of coffee consumption. Coffee contains a diverse series of components, including caffeine, chlorogenic acid and hydroxyhydroquinone. A recent study into the benefits of coffee consumption, performed by the National Institute of Food and Science Technology, Pakistan, suggested coffee could reduce the risk of diabetes mellitus, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
However, another isolated research study, which submitted a review of contemporary literature, focusing upon the health benefits and risks of coffee, established links between a coffee-based compound, called diterpenes, and increased cholesterol levels. This study also confirms coffee’s protective role in various forms of cognitive pathologies, as well as diabetes and liver disease, but stresses a possible relationship between the caffeine beverage and cardiovascular disease risk; the suspected risk factors included increased blood pressure and circulating homocysteine. Homocysteine is believed to cause damage to the vascular system, as well as inflammation and destruction of blood vessel walls.
According to the Daily Mail, in assessing the mixed health benefits of coffee, Dr. Junxiu Liu suggests the “… mechanisms could counterbalance one another.”
Based upon his extensive epidemiological research, Liu claims a relationship between mortality and the age at which an individual consumes coffee, alongside “genetic coffee addiction.”
Taking all the information into consideration, it is difficult to draw any new conclusions from this work. Although a substantial population sample has been selected, pure epidemiological work is making it difficult to decipher precisely which factors are responsible for a given pathology. Simply singling coffee out as a health hazard, whilst ignoring hundreds of other relevant factors is not helping matters. Dissecting the many chemical constituents of coffee and assessing their direct impact on the human body is one of the only legitimate means of identifying the negative and positive health effects of the drink.
So, with this latest study suggesting four cups a day could increase your risk of coffee-related death, will it influence your intake?
By: James Fenner