Hawaii is the U.S. state that produces the most coffee, and coffee is a massive part of the Hawaiian economy.
So there’s good news in the biggest-ever study of coffee use, which finds, in short, that if you drink a fair amount of coffee, you’re likely to live longer than those who don’t.
Coffee covers close to 8,000 acres statewide, and there are coffee farms on most islands. The value of coffee cherries at the farm gate was more than $60 million in 2015, according to the state Data Book.
In 2016, coffee was the state’s second biggest crop, after the seed industry, and ahead of sugar, cattle, macadamia nuts and the rest.
A British study, released Monday, followed half a million people over 10 years, and found not only that coffee drinkers live longer, but that the more coffee you drink, the better your chances of a longer life than those who drink less.
The study, entitled “Association of Coffee Drinking with mortality by Genetic Variation in Caffeine Metabolism,” was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, a publication of the American Medical Association. Its authors were Erikka Loftfield, Marilyn Cornelis, Neil Caporaso, Kai Yu, Rashmi Sinha and Neal Freedman.
The study was designed to look into whether drinking a lot of coffee is a problem for people with genetic issues with caffeine metabolism, but it found that everyone — including those whose caffeine metabolism was faster or slower — had reduced mortality if they drank coffee.
This isn’t entirely new. There have been previous studies linking coffee to better longevity and to reduced rates of various diseases. That helped lead to the recommendation that up to 40 ounces of coffee (five 8-ounce cups) can be part of a healthy diet, from the 2015 report of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
But a lot of the studies leading to earlier results were small. This new one is a massive study using the more than 9 million members of the UK Biobank. This study targeted 503,000 volunteers — excluding those who were pregnant, or whose coffee or nicotine intake information was incomplete. It looked at those who drink ground coffee, instant coffee and decaffeinated coffee. The average age going into the study was 57, and there were slightly more women than men. The researchers followed them for 10 years, during which time more than 14,000 of them died.
And there’s tons of information there.
People lived longer, even if they drank decaf — so it’s something in the coffee or the coffee drinking, and not just the caffeine. “These findings suggest the importance of noncaffeine constituents in the coffee-mortality association and provide further reassurance that coffee drinking can be a part of a healthy diet,” the study’s authors write.
The authors looked at details of participants’ smoking, as well as sex, weight, exercise, race, education and how much they also drank tea (it is a British survey, after all). A fifth were non-coffee-drinkers. It turned out that coffee drinkers were more likely to be male, white, smokers and to drink alcohol. Those who drank the most coffee were also more likely to be smokers and more likely to drink instant coffee. Those who drank one to three cups a day tended to be older, better educated and to self-report being in good health.
Ground coffee was a little healthier than instant and decaf, but they were all better than none.
The study found that sex, age, weight and previous health issues did not make much difference in the outcome.
The study ‘s conclusion ends with this key message: “Our results provide further evidence that coffee drinking can be part of a healthy diet and may provide reassurance to those who drink coffee and enjoy it.”
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Jan TenBruggencate was the science and environment writer and Kauai Bureau Chief for the Honolulu Advertiser. He left to start a communications consulting firm, Island Strategy LLC. His science writing has generated awards from the Hawaii Audubon Society, Hawaiian Academy of Science, The Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Council for Hawaii and others.