Longevity and Caffeine

Ahh yes: caffeine. It’s one of the first things many of us have to start our day, in a cup of either coffee or tea. More than five million 60-kilogram bags of coffee are expected to be consumed in Canada this year, and the number has been consistently going up over the past 10 years. It’s obvious that we love our cup of Joe, but how does caffeine affect our lifespans?

Many studies have looked at the link between coffee and longevity over the years and the results are extremely encouraging. According to a Harvard article, a study analyzed data from about half a million Britons and found that the more coffee people drank, the lower their risk was of dying during the 10-year study period. For example, if people drank eight or more cups of coffee per day, this was also linked to a 14% lower mortality risk, compared with those who did not drink any coffee. Other research backs this up – the National Library of Medicine looked at studies which were performed on older populations and found correlations between habitual caffeine consumption and a reduced mortality rate.

Coffee consumption can help reduce the chances of getting other illness that could play a major role in someone’s overall lifespan. Healthline reported that coffee drinkers, in general, have a much lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s, Type 2 diabetes and liver diseases. Healthprep said that researchers have found that drinking three to five cups of coffee per day will result in a lower risk of developing cardiovascular problems than in those who do not drink coffee every day. Other studies have shown that coffee may even make you happier, thereby reducing your risk of depression and suicide by 20% and 53%, respectively.

Thanks to research, we also know that caffeine can have positive effects on our bodies and minds. It helps increase alertness and ramp up our metabolism. It also gives us a memory boost.

So, what is caffeine and where does it come from? According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), caffeine is the most popular and widely used psychoactive substance in the world. It occurs naturally in products such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and cola soft drinks, and is added to a variety of prescription and over-the-counter medications, including cough, cold and pain remedies. In North America, more than 80 per cent of adults regularly consume caffeine. The average amount of caffeine consumed per person in Canada (from all sources) is estimated to be 210 to 238 mg per day.

While there are a lot of benefits to caffeine, there can also be downsides to it too. Too much caffeine can cause headaches, make you nervous, impact your quality of sleep and upset your stomach. Larger doses of caffeine, especially when consumed by people who don’t usually have any caffeine, can cause rapid heartbeat, convulsions and even delirium. Moderate amounts of caffeine don’t usually harm an otherwise healthy adult but, if you regularly drink more than six to eight cups of coffee, you may have trouble sleeping and feel anxious and restless. Higher amounts can cause extreme agitation, tremors and a very rapid and irregular heartbeat. Consuming more than 5,000 mg (more than 40 cups of coffee) over a short time can even be fatal.

Caffeine, in general, comes with its benefits, but going to extremes with it can also have disadvantages. The key is finding balance. Brew a morning cup of coffee (or two) guilt-free and reap all of the goodness that comes with consuming caffeine – in the end, it just may help you live a longer, happier life!

by Jennifer Cox