Coffee drinkers are up to a third less likely to die from any cause, even if they take sugar.
In a study of 170,000 healthy Britons in their 50s, researchers looked at people who drank unsweetened or sweetened coffee and no coffee at all for seven years.
They found that drinking between two and four cups a day was the sweet spot, whether or not they used sugar.
Unsweetened coffee drinkers had up to 29% lower risk compared to non-drinkers, while sweetened coffee was associated with 31% lower risk.
But researchers from Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, said the average coffee drinker adds only about a teaspoon of sugar.
That’s far less than the amount found in many popular coffees from major chains, experts have warned.
Consuming too much white matter can lead to a host of health issues, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
The new research joins a plethora of studies linking coffee to numerous health benefits, including overall longevity and lower risk of depression or diabetes.
NHS guidelines say adults should try to avoid consuming more than 30g of sugar a day
The results of the study show the risk of death from daily coffee consumption over the next seven years. The 1.0 line represents the risk of death for those who did not drink coffee. The graph shows that the supposed health benefits of coffee were highest at three cups a day before leveling off if people drank more.
This chart shows the same for sweet coffee. A large decrease in the risk of death is observed at the amount of two cups per day, but after this point the trend reverses and in fact slightly exceeds the average risk of death at more than 6 cups per day.
In the study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed health and diet data from 171,616 Britons who took part in the UK Biobank study.
Participants, who were on average 55 years old at the start of the study, were asked to complete a daily diet questionnaire five times over the course of a year between 2009 and 2012.
This was used to calculate their average daily coffee consumption, including whether they used sugar or an artificial sweetener.
Three-quarters were coffee consumers, with around half drinking it unsweetened, one in six had sugar and one in 20 used artificial sweeteners.
The researchers then checked the participants’ medical records for the next seven years, noting whether they had died.
The study did not examine whether participants added milk or what type of coffee they drank – two factors that can skew the results.
HOW MUCH SUGAR IS TOO MUCH?
The amount of sugar a person should eat per day depends on their age.
Children aged four to six should be limited to a maximum of 19g per day.
Children 7-10 years old should have no more than 24g and children 11 years and older should have 30g or less.
Meanwhile, the NHS recommends adults consume no more than 30g of free sugars per day.
Popular snacks contain a surprising amount of sugar and even a single can of Coca Cola (35g of sugar) or a Mars bar (33g) contains more than the maximum amount of sugar a child should have in an entire day.
A bowl of Frosties contains 24g of sugar, which means that a 10-year-old child having Frosties for breakfast has probably hit their limit for the day before they leave home.
Children who eat too much sugar are at risk of damaging their teeth, gaining weight, becoming obese and contracting type 2 diabetes, which increases the risk of heart disease and cancer.
By the end of the research period, 3,177 participants had died, the majority of cancer or heart disease.
Scientists have discovered a “U”-shaped association between the amount of coffee consumed and its protective effect.
Drinking between two and four cups had the lowest risk of death, but more than six seemed to increase the risk.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Chen Mao, an epidemiologist, added that the findings for artificial sweeteners were inconclusive.
“The consumption of artificially sweetened coffee was much lower than that of unsweetened and sweetened coffee, which lowered the power to detect any association,” she said.
Reacting to the study, Professor Gunter Kuhnle, a nutrition expert at the University of Reading, said that although helpful, the health implications of the study were limited.
“The outcome data is very good, but the dietary data is limited – in this case it doesn’t have a lot of detail on the type of coffee consumed which may have an overall impact on health,” said he declared.
“Indeed, whether the coffee is Robusta or Arabia, filtered or steam extracted, it makes a big difference to the potential effect of coffee on health.”
He said the conclusions on sugar and sweeteners are less clear due to lifestyle and genetic factors that could influence the results.
“The amount of sugar added to coffee is difficult to estimate, even using teaspoons,” he said.
“So it’s very difficult to make any further inferences about whether added sugar in coffee has an impact on health.
“The study is informative and interesting, but does not support any recommendations for behavior change.”
Dr Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian at Aston University in Birmingham, also urged caution about the study.
“This study supports findings seen in a number of other studies that suggest moderate coffee consumption may be beneficial,” he said.
“But it’s important to remember what else you put in it, for example syrups, cream, etc., as well as what else you might have with it.”
“This study didn’t investigate whether or not dipping a cookie in your coffee was good, let alone having a slice of cake with your favorite type of coffee.”
This follows a Norwegian study published earlier this month which suggested men and women should opt for different types of coffee to avoid raising their cholesterol.
Researchers have found that coffee raises cholesterol, but how much that depends on how it’s brewed and whether you’re male or female.
For men, drinking espresso causes a bigger spike than women.
While the reverse is true for filter coffee, women see higher levels than men who drink the same amount.
However, other studies have shown that drinking coffee may actually reduce the risk of heart problems.
The NHS recommends that adults consume no more than 30g of free sugars per day.
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET RESULT IN?
Meals should be potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruits and vegetables count
• Meals based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starches, ideally whole grains
• 30 grams of fiber per day: This is equivalent to eating all of the following foods: 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 whole-grain crackers, 2 thick slices of whole-grain bread, and a large baked potato with the skin on.
• Having dairy products or dairy alternatives (like soy beverages) choosing low fat and low sugar options
• Eat beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 servings of fish per week, one of which should be fatty)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume them in small amounts
• Drink 6 to 8 cups/glasses of water per day
• Adults should consume less than 6 g of salt and 20 g of saturated fat for women or 30 g for men per day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide