This story appears in the March 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine.
Coffee lovers, rejoice. New research suggests that people who drink two to three cups of coffee a day—caffeinated or not—may have a lower chance of dying from certain illnesses than those who abstain.
The study, thought to be the largest of its kind, followed more than 500,000 people in 10 European countries over the course of 16 years. It found that compared with those who don’t drink coffee, those who do show signs of having healthier livers and circulatory systems, as well as lower levels of inflammation, says epidemiologist and study leader Marc Gunter. The findings also indicated that “higher coffee consumption was associated with a reduced risk of death from any cause,” including circulatory diseases and digestive diseases, says Gunter, who heads the nutrition and metabolism section of the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.
Previous, smaller scale studies have found a link between coffee drinking and increased resistance to certain ailments, but Gunter’s findings provide the most substantial evidence to date. “This digestive disease relationship, which was strongest for liver disease deaths, is particularly striking,” he says.
Gunter says the next step is to analyze coffee’s chemical composition in hopes of understanding what makes the beverage beneficial. So he’s going back to his research—and the rest of us, it appears, should be going back for refills.