HEALTHY LIVING
08/15/2013 03:26 pm ET | Updated Aug 16, 2013

Drinking More Than 4 Cups Of Coffee A Day Linked With Higher Death Risk For People Under Age 55

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A new study is adding further proof to the idea that good health is really about taking things in moderation.

While the numerous health benefits of coffee have been well-documented, a new study suggests drinking too much of the caffeinated stuff is linked with a higher risk of early death.

Specifically, researchers found a 21 percent higher risk of death among people younger than age 55 who drank more than 28 cups of coffee each week (which averages out to more than four cups of coffee a day).

However, it's important to note that people younger than 55 who tended to drink more than four cups of coffee a day were also more likely to smoke and less likely to have good cardiorespiratory fitness.

The study, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, was observational. It involved nearly 43,727 people (33,900 men and 9,827 women) between ages 20 and 87, who answered questionnaires about their lifestyle habits between 1979 and 1998.

After following up with the study participants for a median of 17 years, 2,512 people had died. After following up with the study participants for a median of 17 years, 2,512 people had died -- 87.5 percent of them were men and 12.5 percent of them were women.

Researchers found an association between dying over the study period and drinking more than 28 cups of coffee a week among people younger than age 55, with men showing a slightly higher trend toward early death than women.

Interestingly, researchers did not find any sort of increased mortality risk among people older than age 55, suggesting that young people in particular should watch out for over-consumption of coffee.

"Coffee is a complex mixture of chemicals consisting of thousands of components. Recent research has found that coffee is one of the major sources of antioxidants in the diet, and has potential beneficial effects on inflammation," the researchers wrote in the study. "However, it is also well known that coffee has potential adverse effects because of caffeine's potential to stimulate the release of epinephrine, inhibit insulin activity, and increase blood pressure and homocysteine levels."

Everyday Health nutrition columnist Johannah Sakimura explained some of the caveats to the new study:

…Many studies (like this new study) don’t differentiate between decaf and regular coffee drinkers, so it's impossible to separate the effects of caffeine from those of other compounds in this dynamic brew. What's more, studies typically don't break down how coffee is consumed, which could certainly impact its health effects -- a mug loaded with cream and sugar is a different animal than a cup of black coffee.

Of course, like with most things, there's good and bad that come with coffee. The good includes lower risks of conditions such as depression, some cancers and diabetes. But the bad could include higher blood pressure or irregular heartbeats, not to mention the addictive nature of caffeine. Plus, a recent study from Australian researchers showed that drinking more than five or six cups of joe a day could raise metabolic syndrome risk, the New York Daily News reported.

Want to kick the coffee habit, but not sure where to start? We've got four good alternatives for you here.

Clarification: This post previously cited a statistic regarding the proportion of men and women who had died over the study period, which suggested that 87.5 percent of the total men and 12.5 percent of the total women had died. However, this is not the case -- it was merely 87.5 percent of those had died were men, and 12.5 percent of those who had died were women.

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