Today's news features a study from the Annals of Internal Medicine with the intriguing title The Relationship of Coffee Consumption with Mortality.
Reporters have leapt on the findings, claiming guzzling coffee may cut heart disease. But note the word may.
The study itself, done through the Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain, followed over 125,000 health professionals over almost 20 years. It was a simple survey, asking how much coffee folks drank, and it then followed these people.
By the end of the study, in 2004, about 18,000 of the participants had died, many from heart disease.
The study graded the self-reported coffee intake into categories. Less than a cup per month, up to 4 cups per week, up to a cup per day, 2-3 cups per day, 4-5 cups per day, and over 6 cups per day.
Those in the first three groups had fairly average mortality, when adjusted for other risk factors (like smoking). Those in the coffee-guzzling group slightly less.
Rather than give you the deathless prose of the coffee-loving press, here's what the study itself concluded:
This inverse association was mainly due to a moderately reduced risk for CardioVascular Death (CVD) mortality and was independent of caffeine intake.
By contrast, coffee consumption was not statistically significantly associated with risk for cancer death after adjustment for potential confounders.
Decaffeinated coffee consumption was associated with a small reduction in all-cause and CVD mortality.
The short form is that decaf is better for you than caffeinated coffee, and there's no change in cancer risks. (Personally I hate decaf.)
Also, define a cup. Is it an 8 ounce cup? Is it the 6 ounce glass common in Europe? Does a single shot espresso count as a cup, even though it's a quarter-cup? What about that mocha grande with whipped cream I get from Starbucks -- is it one cup or two?
One other important point. All this was based on the self-reporting of the patients concerning their coffee intake. And before you buy the gallon jug of java from the donut shop, here's the final word:
Regular coffee consumption was not associated with an increased mortality rate in either men or women. The possibility of a modest benefit of coffee consumption on all-cause and CVD mortality needs to be further investigated.
In other words it can't hurt but we're not so sure it helps.
On my personal blog I sometimes use a graphic of a soldier holding a cup of coffee with the logo, "How About a Nice Big Cup of Shut the (Bleep) Up." This being a family blog I can't reproduce it here.
But those sentiments go out to the mainstream press.