Coffee Drinking Reduces Death Risk : EPIC Study

A research article just released in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of death in European countries.  This analysis of data from the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) study included over 450,000 subjects for an average of 16.4 years from 10 European countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom).

The study took into consideration several variables that also have an effect on mortality, specifically body mass index, physical activity, smoking status and duration, menopausal status and history of contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy, education, alcohol consumption, total energy intake, consumption of red and processed meats, and fruit and vegetable consumption.

Here are some of the interesting and statistically significant relationships that they found in this study.  These numbers represent the hazard ratios(probability of the outcome in one group divided by the probability of the outcome in the other group) expressed as a percentage for men and women that were in the highest quartile of coffee consumers as compared to non-coffee drinkers.

Cause of mortalityMenWomen
Digestive Disease41%60%
Circulatory Disease ~78%
Cerebrovascular Disease ~70%
Ovarian Cancer ~131%

The most significant benefit here seems to be the reduction in the risk of death from digestive diseases(ICD 10 codes K00-K93). This category includes ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease, and several non-infectious types of liver disease, with more than one-third of the observed deaths being due to liver disease.  The authors note that when comparing the highest coffee consumers and non-consumers the reduction in death from liver disease is quite significant but for non-liver diseases the results are inconclusive.  One of the other outcomes that was noted in this and other studies was the improved liver function in coffee drinkers, as determined by measurements of liver enzymes. This might partly explain the reduction in liver disease death risk.

As has also been found in other large studies, increased coffee consumption reduces the risk of all-cause mortality in both men and women.  In this study the association with all-cause mortality was generally apparent for both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. The decreased risk of strokes in women consuming coffee, as found here, has also been confirmed in other studies.

One more concerning finding, shown in the table, is the apparent increased risk of death from ovarian cancer in the highest quartile of coffee drinkers.  This is not the first time that an association like this has been found, but other studies have been done that have not shown this relationship. It is something to consider if you have any risk factors for ovarian cancer.

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