GUANGZHOU, China — Adding a spoonful of sugar to a cup of coffee could be the key to a longer life, according to a new study. Scientists have found coffee-drinkers are at a lower risk of death than non-coffee drinkers, but those who like the drink sweet are even less likely to die.
Researchers in China who followed a group of British adults for an average of seven years found people who drank between one and a half to three and a half cups of caffeinated coffee were less likely to die during that time in comparison to those who did not take sugar or those who do did drink coffee at all.
People who drank any amount of unsweetened coffee were up to 21 percent less likely to die than those who did not drink coffee.
Those who like their coffee sweet were up to 31 percent less likely to die than non-coffee drinkers during the follow-up period — if they kept their coffee consumption between one and a half and three and a half cups a day. Adults who took sugar only added one spoonful on average.
Drinking coffee displayed a connection to a lower risk of dying from any cause, dying from cancer, and dying from heart disease. It didn’t matter whether people drank decaffeinated, instant, or ground coffee — the results held up for all of them.
What about artificial sweeteners?
The team notes that their results were inconclusive for participants adding artificial sweeteners to their coffee. Earlier research has shown the beverage puts coffee-drinkers at a lower risk of dying, but those studies did not distinguish between sweetened and unsweetened coffee.
During the new study, researchers looked at data on more than 171,000 adults participating in the UK Biobank study health behavior questionnaire. The healthy volunteers, who did not have a known case of heart disease or cancer, answered dietary and health questions to determine the effect of their coffee-drinking habits. Scientists followed up with each person from 2009 to 2018.
While the results, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, adjusted for each person’s lifestyle, demographics, and clinical factors, they do not prove drinking coffee is the only reason participants were less likely to die.
No matter how you take it, coffee connects to health
The average amount of sugar participants took was much lower than the amount typically added to a drink in coffee chain restaurants. However, the study authors say that, based on their findings alone, doctors do not need to tell coffee-drinking patients to kick the habit.
“Our study found that adults who drank moderate amounts of coffee sweetened with sugar every day were about 30 percent less likely to die from any cause during the average of seven year follow up period compared to non-coffee drinkers,” study author Dan Liu from Southern Medical University says in a statement, according to SWNS. “These novel findings are of clinical and public health relevance.”
“Drinking coffee was associated with a lower risk of dying whether or not you added sugar,” adds Annals of Internal Medicine deputy editor Dr. Christina Wee.
“The relationship between drinking coffee with artificial sweeteners and your risk of dying was less clear in the study,” Dr. Wee tells SWNS. “The authors found that drinking moderate levels of coffee regularly was associated with a lower risk of dying from any cause, dying from cancer and dying from heart disease. The lower risk of dying associated with moderate levels of coffee-drinking was true regardless of whether you drank decaffeinated coffee, instant coffee or ground coffee.”
South West News Service writer Gwyn Wright contributed to this report.