ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Scientists have linked a daily coffee habit to a range of potential benefits, from a reduced risk of stroke to a lower risk of neurologic diseases, including Parkinson's. And a new study in the journal Circulation finds there may be another benefit too. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: One of the perks of working here at NPR is the coffee. It's free. Our cafe manager, Marco Martera, starts brewing at 6 a.m.
MARCO MARTERA: It's bottomless. Yes, it's completely free. You can get one, two, three cups of coffee.
AUBREY: As much as you want.
MARTERA: Yes, as much as you want.
AUBREY: Martera says he brews about 54 pounds of coffee beans a day.
MARTERA: (Laughter) They drink lots of coffee.
AUBREY: So what might this be doing to our bodies other than giving us a quick burst of energy? A new study suggests that people who consume moderate amounts of coffee each day may cut the risk of premature death. Here's Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health. He's one of the authors of the paper.
WALTER WILLETT: In our study, we found that people who drank three to five cups of coffee per day had about a 15 percent lower mortality compared to people who did not drink coffee.
AUBREY: So a 15 percent lower risk of premature death.
WILLETT: That's right.
AUBREY: Now, it's not exactly known what could explain this effect. Prior studies have shown that certain bioactive compounds found in coffee beans may help regulate blood sugar and reduce inflammation, and Willett says this is a possible explanation.
WILLETT: The coffee bean itself is loaded with many different nutrients and phytochemicals. And my guess is that they're working together to have some of these benefits.
AUBREY: Now, it is possible to overdo it with coffee. I know I've certainly experienced the jitters from drinking too much. And if coffee starts interfering with sleep, as it does for lots of people, that certainly is not healthy. Andrew Maynard directs the Risk Innovation Lab at Arizona State University. He says interpreting the study is tricky.
ANDREW MAYNARD: This is part of the problem because not everybody reacts to coffee in the same way.
AUBREY: Given that the people in the study who drank decaf got the same reduction in risk, Maynard says there are a lot of questions.
MAYNARD: So we don't know whether it's coffee. We don't know whether it's just drinking a hot drink.
AUBREY: It could be here that people who drink coffee do other things that make them healthy. Is that right?
MAYNARD: Very much so. I'm intrigued by the idea that even just taking five minutes to sit down, relax and drink a hot drink may be associated with this decrease in the chances of dying.
AUBREY: So if you like coffee, drink up. It might promote longevity, and it'll definitely give you a lift. Allison Aubrey, NPR News.
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