This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. A big new study has found that drinking coffee appears to reduce the risk of dying prematurely. As NPR's Rob Stein reports, the study, from The New England Journal of Medicine, doesn't prove coffee will help you live longer, but it suggests it won't hurt you either.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: There's been lots of research into whether coffee is good or bad for people's health. But Neal Freedman of the National Institutes of Health says there's been a big problem.

DR. NEAL FREEDMAN: The results have really been mixed. There's been some evidence that coffee might increase the risk of certain diseases, and there's been also more maybe recently accumulating evidence that coffee might protect against other diseases as well.

STEIN: So Freedman and his colleagues analyzed data from more than 400,000 people. It's the largest study yet to look at the relationship between coffee and health.

FREEDMAN: We found that the coffee drinkers, they had a modestly lower risk of death than the nondrinkers.

STEIN: Those who drank at least two cups a day were about 10 percent less likely to die during the 13 years of the study, but you don't necessarily need to be a heavy coffee drinker. The benefits appear to kick in...

FREEDMAN: ...starting with those drinking a cup a day or more.

STEIN: And the more you drink, he says, the better. Now, the study doesn't prove coffee can make people live longer. And even if it is good for you, scientists have no idea why. It's not caffeine. Decaf seems to be just as good. But Freedman says there are lots of other possibilities.

FREEDMAN: There's many different compounds in coffee. It's estimated 1,000 or more than 1,000 different compounds. And each one of those might affect health in different ways.

STEIN: Until scientists do more investigation, Freedman doesn't recommend anyone start drinking coffee or drink more coffee. But at the very least, the new findings reassure coffee lovers that they aren't hurting themselves by indulging in a couple of cappuccinos or lattes every day. Rob Stein, NPR News.

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