A decade-long study has offered surprising results, linking heavy coffee drinking to a lower risk of death. The longevity boost was found even among those who consumed 6 cups a day and those who drank coffee without caffeine.  

The study titled “Association of Coffee Drinking With Mortality by Genetic Variation in Caffeine Metabolism” was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on July 2.

Data on nearly half a million British adults (aged 38 to 73) were studied over a 10-year period. During that time, 14,225 participants died from a variety of causes including cancer and heart disease.

Compared to abstainers, those who drank six to seven cups of coffee a day had a 16 percent lower risk of death. This figure slightly fell to 14 percent for those who had eight or more cups each day.

“We found that people who drank two to three cups per day had about a 12 percent lower risk of death compared to non-coffee drinkers,” said study author Erikka Loftfield, a research fellow at the National Cancer Institute.

The type and amount of coffee consumed did not seem to make a difference — whether it was caffeinated or decaffeinated, whether it was instant or brewed, whether it was two cups or eight — they were all linked to a lower chance of death.

“Participants drinking four or more cups per day, compared with those drinking less coffee and nondrinkers, were more likely to drink instant coffee and be current smokers,” the authors wrote. Those who drank one to three cups per day were older, more likely to have a university degree, and were more likely to report “excellent” health.

Caffeine may not be the reason behind the longevity-boosting benefit since it was also experienced by those who consumed decaffeinated coffee. Previously, research has suggested that substances coffee can improve health by reducing inflammation, improving heart function, and reducing the likelihood of developing diabetes.

A number of “polyphenol-like, antioxidant-rich compounds,” found in coffee may play a major role in improving health, said Christopher Gardner from the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

He also noted that a coffee break is often one of the most relaxing moments in a day, which alone can contribute towards stress relief. “Think about when you’re drinking coffee — aren’t you stopping and relaxing a little bit?” Gardner asked. “I just love holding that hot beverage in my hand. It’s the morning ritual.”

The findings did not mean that your coffee pot is a fountain of youth, said Alice Lichtenstein, a Tufts University nutrition expert who was not involved in the research. But those who feared adverse health effects due to coffee consumption can now feel reassured to enjoy the beverage if they want to.

While coffee itself is safe, it should be remembered that using too much cream, sugar, and sweeteners can be unhealthy in the long run. Furthermore, going over two cups a day is not advised for vulnerable individuals such as pregnant women.