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Can Coffee Really Make You Live Longer? It's Complicated

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist and writer specializing in sexual and reproductive health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham ...

Drinking coffee might make you live longer, but there's more to it than that

Sometimes, what you’ve been looking for has been right in front of you all along. As it turns out, the key to living longer may be in that cup of coffee leaving a ring on your desk right now.

I know, I know — it seems like there is a new study on the health benefits or risks of coffee every other week, but this time, there are two studies saying the same and they were pretty big. The first study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, involved 520,000 people from 10 European countries — making it the largest study to date on coffee drinking and living longer — and found that drinking more coffee could lead to a longer life.

More: Coffee May Shrink Your Boobs, but It Could Save Your Liver

The second study, published in the same journal, focused on non-white American populations, including more than 185,000 African-Americans, Native Americans, Hawaiians, Japanese-Americans, Latinos and whites came to the same conclusion.

So how much coffee do you need to drink to reap the benefits? The research found that people who drank two to four cups of coffee each day had an 18 percent lower risk of death than those who didn’t drink coffee.

More: Your Tea Habit May Need a Reality Check

OK, a few things. Last time I checked, we all have a 100 percent risk of death, so that outcome isn’t very useful. How about something a little more… measurable?

University of Cambridge professor Sir David Spiegelhalter specializes in the public understanding of risk and broke it down for the BBC. If drinking coffee were really behind longevity, then an extra cup each day would extend the life of a man by around three months and a woman by around a month on average.

Then there’s the fact that there’s a lot that these studies can’t account for, like whether coffee drinkers are healthier or wealthier overall than non-coffee drinkers — both of which would have a significant impact on their lifespan.

Also worth noting: It's not the caffeine that makes you live longer because the results were also found in those who stick to decaf.

More: 5 Health Myths About Tea We Need to Stop Believing

And like most things in life, there’s some bad news for those of us with ovaries. The research found that drinking coffee was linked to higher rates of ovarian cancer.

In the end, like so many food and health studies, this one makes for interesting headlines — and excuse to make that second (or third) trip to the Keurig, but don’t bank on it making you live longer.

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