Study: Coffee Drinkers More Likely to Live Longer
Brew away, coffee lovers: Drinking several cups a day may help you live longer. A new study tracked the health and coffee consumption of more than 400,000 older adults for nearly 14 years, and found that those with a java habit were less likely to die during the study period. Each cup of coffee per day increased the chances of living longer, according to findings published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Compared with those who abstained, men and women who had four or five cups a day were 10 percent and 15 percent less likely, respectively, to die during the study. But even a single cup lowered risk: 6 percent in men and 5 percent in women. The type of coffee—regular or decaf—made no difference. "Going forward, we really need to look at the many different components in coffee," study author Neal Freedman, an investigator with the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the U.S. National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Md., told HealthDay. "Besides caffeine, coffee contains about another 1,000 compounds and antioxidants, some of which may be beneficial and some not."
Easy Ways to Reduce Caffeine Intake
Can't slug through a day without a cup of coffee, and then another, and then one or two more? Need a Coke or Pepsi pick-me-up to finish that task?
Most experts say a moderate amount of caffeine is OK for healthy adults. Ideally, that's 200 milligrams or less a day, or about two cups of strong coffee, says registered dietitian Melinda Johnson, a lecturer in the nutrition program at Arizona State University. But some people are more sensitive to caffeine. "If you experience nervousness, anxiety, shakiness, or have problems sleeping," it might be time to cut back, Johnson says. Research suggests that caffeine can spike heart rate and blood pressure, while increasing feelings of stress, anxiety, and road rage. It can also leave you feeling wired for up to 16 hours after your last cup, according to the National Institutes of Health. Kicking the habit isn't as daunting as it sounds, either. Back away from the coffee pot and try these seven easy tricks for cutting back on caffeine.
1. Analyze your caffeine intake. You may be overlooking some sources of caffeine. While many are obvious—coffee and soda, for example—others are less clear. "Energy drinks can contain large amounts of caffeine, and they're not required to tell you how much caffeine is in a serving," Johnson says. Chocolate and gum are other sources, as are common over-the-counter medications like Excedrin. "The best way to cut down is to first take stock," Johnson says. "Where is your caffeine coming from, how much do you consume, and what times of day do you consume it?" Once you're aware, you'll be better positioned to scale back. "Sometimes caffeine is disguised, and you have to be more of a sleuth reading ingredients," says Andrea Giancoli, a registered dietician and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
2. Cut back gradually. Caffeine withdrawal is real and can cause symptoms like a pounding headache, fatigue, and an inability to concentrate. That's why you shouldn't abruptly purge caffeine from your daily routine. Try mixing caffeinated coffee with decaf, or progressively adding more water to your coffee maker each morning. "You get more caffeine the stronger it's brewed, so brew your coffee weaker," Giancoli says. "You're still getting that hot beverage." And if you usually have, say, two cups when you wake up or two cans of soda a day, work your way down, allowing yourself to adjust to your new intake. [Read more: Easy Ways to Reduce Caffeine Intake]
Signs of Caffeine Addiction
Miss your morning cup of coffee and get a pounding headache? Feel grumpy if you haven't had a cup of Joe in hours? Caffeine addiction is easy to develop and hard to kick. Though caffeine is prevalent and legal, it's the most commonly used drug in the world. In addition to coffee, it can lurk in soda, tea, energy drinks, chocolate, gum, vitamins, snacks like "caffeinated peanuts," and even some over-the-counter medicines. Last year, "caffeine withdrawal syndrome" was recommended for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which is used by mental health professionals to diagnose and research disorders. That's because caffeine can alter mood and behavior and caffeine withdrawal can interfere with sleep, work, and the ability to function at peak capacity. (The proposed revision has not yet been approved.)
"People are hesitant to think of [caffeine] as a drug of addiction because it doesn't have a lot of the health and adverse social consequences associated with our classic drugs of addiction," says Roland Griffiths, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "Yet the basic mechanisms by which it hooks people are very much like our classic drugs of addiction."
Most people experience mild to modest withdrawal, Griffiths says, which is relieved by drinking coffee in the morning after abstaining from it overnight. Many people say, "'I really don't get going until I have coffee, [and] then I feel great.' What they're not recognizing is that if they didn't consume coffee [at all], they would wake up feeling great," Griffiths says. [Read more: Signs of Caffeine Addiction]
Angela Haupt is a health reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.