REJOICE, coffee lovers! According to a study, your mortality risk is reduced. BUT…

According to a recent study, persons who drank moderate volumes of unsweetened coffee or coffee sweetened with sugar each day (1.5 to 3.5 cups) were less likely to pass away over the course of a 7-year follow-up period than non-coffee drinkers. Less was known about the outcomes for individuals who utilised artificial sweeteners. The Annals of Internal Medicine publishes the findings. Although prior research on the health impacts of coffee concluded that drinking it lowers mortality risk, it did not differentiate between coffee drank with sugar or artificial sweeteners and coffee consumed unsweetened.

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Data from the U.K. Biobank project health behaviour questionnaire was utilised by researchers from Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, to assess the relationships between consumption of sugar-sweetened, artificially sweetened, and unsweetened coffee with overall and cause-specific death. A number of dietary and health behaviour questionnaires were asked of more than 171,000 U.K. participants without a history of cancer or heart disease to ascertain their coffee consumption patterns. The researchers discovered that people who drank any amount of unsweetened coffee were 16–21% less likely to pass away over the 7-year follow-up period than participants who did not.

They also discovered that people who drank 1.5 to 3.5 cups of coffee per day, sweetened with sugar, had a 29 to 31% lower mortality rate than those who did not consume coffee. The scientists observed that, on average, persons who drank sugar-sweetened coffee only added around 1 teaspoon of sugar to each cup. Participants who added artificial sweeteners to their coffee did not significantly change the outcome.

The editors of Annals of Internal Medicine note in any supplemental editorial that while coffee may have properties that have potential health benefits, results may be tainted by confounding elements such as more challenging-to-measure variations in socioeconomic status, diet, and other lifestyle elements. The participant data was gathered from a nation where tea is a similarly popular beverage, and the authors note that it is at least ten years old.

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They warn that while the average daily sugar content per cup of coffee found in this analysis is significantly lower than that of specialty drinks at well-known coffee chain restaurants, many coffee drinkers may substitute coffee for other beverages, making comparisons to non-drinkers more challenging. These findings allow doctors to advise patients that most coffee consumers do not need to cut the beverage out of their diet, but they should exercise caution when consuming speciality coffees with higher calorie counts.

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