How Coffee Supports Longevity + An MD’s Cold Brew Recipe

In the second study, led by the University of Southern California, which sought to examine coffee’s powers among an ethnically diverse group of people between the ages of 45 and 75 over a nearly 20-year period, the results echoed the findings above: higher consumption of coffee was associated with lower risk of death— notably, from various types of cancer.

Both studies show that coffee might be protective, but here’s the interesting part: it’s not the caffeine that gets the credit. Polyphenols and other bioactive compounds in coffee have antioxidant properties, and coffee’s well-documented association with reduced insulin resistance, inflammation, and biomarkers of liver function is attributable to these compounds, unrelated to the caffeine. Moreover, coffee contains xanthines, chemicals that can inhibit xanthine oxidase, which, as you’ll recall, is the enzyme required for the production of uric acid.

And in a third large study, using data amassed from 14,758 participants in the United States enrolled in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers from the University of British Columbia and Harvard found an inverse relationship between coffee consumption—both caffeinated and not—and uric acid levels: uric acid decreased with increasing coffee intake. Their findings ruled out other factors that could have skewed the results, including the participants’ weight, alcohol consumption, and diuretic use. They did not see this relationship between tea consumption and uric acid. So if you don’t like to drink coffee because of its caffeine content, decaf can be just as beneficial for dropping acid.

In chapter five of my book Drop Acid, I mention a meta-analysis spanning 19 studies that revealed increased uric acid levels among coffee-drinking women, but that did not translate to any negative effects, nor did it increase the risk of gout. The authors were quick to point out the need for future randomized controlled trials to understand potential differences between men and women in terms of their risk for hyperuricemia and gout within the context of coffee consumption. The slightly increased risk of hyperuricemia observed among the coffee-drinking women could have very well been an “artifact”— an inconsequential finding resulting from the way the authors made their calculations (using several studies, each conducted differently). What we do know is that a robust body of evidence beyond this study has repeatedly validated a strong association between coffee consumption and a reduced risk of hyperuricemia (and gout) among both men and women.

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