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Heavy Coffee Consumption Linked to Early Death

Update Date: Aug 15, 2013 04:39 PM EDT

Previous studies have shown that coffee can prevent cancer, extend life and even lower the risk of suicide.  However, new research reveals that heavy coffee consumption may put younger people at risk for health problems and early death.

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, and more than 400 million cups of Joe are drunk in the U.S. everyday.

However, a new study reveals that drinking large amounts of coffee may be bad for people under 55 years old.

The study, which involved nearly 45,000 participants between 20 and 87 years old, revealed that people who have more than four cups of coffee a week are 21 percent more likely to die an early death.  Furthermore, researchers found a greater than 50 percent increased mortality risk in both men and women younger than 55 years of age who drank more than 28 cups of coffee a week

Researchers said the latest findings suggest that younger people in particular need to avoid heavy coffee consumption.  

Study results showed that during the 17-year median follow-up period, there were 2,512 deaths, and 32 percent were caused by cardiovascular disease.  Researchers found that those who drank the most coffee were more likely to smoke and had lower levels of cardiorespiratory fitness.

Researchers found that younger men who drank about 28 cups of coffee a week had a 56 percent increase in mortality from all causes.  However, younger women who drank more than 28 cups of coffee per week also had a greater than 2-fold higher risk of all-cause mortality than those who did not drink coffee.

However, the study did not find adverse effects in heavy coffee drinkers aged over 55.

"Significantly, the results did not demonstrate any association between coffee consumption and all-cause mortality among older men and women. It is also important to note that none of the doses of coffee in either men or women whether younger or older had any significant effects on cardiovascular mortality," Senior investigator Steven H. Blair of University of South Carolina said in a news release.

While coffee has been shown to benefit inflammation and cognitive function, studies have also shown that the drink has adverse effects because of caffeine's potential to stimulate the release of epinephrine, inhibit insulin activity, and increase blood pressure and levels of homocysteine.

"Thus, all of these mechanisms could counterbalance one another. Research also suggests that heavy coffee drinkers may experience additional risk through potential genetic mechanisms or because of confounding through the deleterious effects of other risk factors with which coffee drinking is associated," researchers wrote in the study.

"Therefore, we hypothesize that the positive association between coffee and mortality may be due to the interaction of age and coffee consumption, combined with a component of genetic coffee addiction," they added.

Researchers suggest that younger people in particular should avoid heavy coffee consumption of more than 28 cups a week in a typical day.  However, they stressed that more studies are needed to confirm the latest findings.

The findings are published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings

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