Scientists in Europe and the US have uncovered the clearest evidence yet that drinking coffee reduces the risk of death.
One study of more than half a million people from ten European countries found that men who downed at least three cups of coffee a day were 18 per cent less likely to die from any cause than non-coffee drinkers.
Women drinking the same amount benefited less, but still experienced an 8 per cent reduction in mortality over the period measured.
Similar results were reported by American scientists who conducted a separate investigation, recruiting 185,855 participants from different ethnic backgrounds.
Irrespective of ethnicity, people who drank two to three cups of coffee daily had an 18 per cent reduced risk of death.
Each of the studies, both published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, showed no advantage from drinking either caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee.
Experts believe the antioxidant plant compounds in coffee rather than caffeine are responsible for the life-extending effect. Previous research has suggested that drinking coffee can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, and some cancers.
Dr Marc Gunter, from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, who led the European study with colleagues from Imperial College London, said: “We found that higher coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, and specifically for circulatory diseases, and digestive diseases.
“Importantly, these results were similar across all of the ten European countries, with variable coffee drinking habits and customs.”
Dr Gunter’s team examined data from 521,330 participants in the Epic (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) study. The investigation spanned 10 European countries including the UK, France, Denmark and Italy.
The Danes drank the most coffee by volume – 900ml per person per day – and the Italians the least.
After 16 years almost 42,000 people taking part in the study had died from a range of causes including cancer, circulatory disease, heart failure and stroke.
Compared with non-coffee drinkers, men in the top 25 per cent of consumers were 12 per cent less likely to die. Women in the same category had a 7 per cent lower chance of death.