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"I really can't calculate that," especially because smoking is a key factor that affects longevity at every age, he said.
Coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart or respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, injuries, accidents or infections. No effect was seen on cancer death risk, though.
Other research ties coffee drinking to lower levels of markers for inflammation and insulin resistance. Researchers also considered that people in poor health might refrain from drinking coffee and whether their abstention could bias the results. But the study excluded people with cancer and heart disease -- the most common health problems -- to minimize this chance. Also, the strongest benefits of coffee drinking were seen in people who were healthiest when the study began.
About two-thirds of study participants drank regular coffee, and the rest, decaf. The type of coffee made no difference in the results.
Hu had this advice for coffee lovers:
Watch the sugar and cream. Extra calories and fat could negate any benefits from coffee.
Drink filtered coffee rather than boiled -- filtering removes compounds that raise LDL, the bad cholesterol.
Researchers did not look at tea, soda or other beverages but plan to in future analyses.
Lou and Mariann Maris have already compared them. Sipping a local brew at a lakefront coffee shop, the suburban Milwaukee couple told of how they missed coffee after briefly giving it up in the 1970s as part of a health kick that included transcendental meditation and eating vegetarian.
Mariann Maris switched to tea after being treated for breast cancer in 2008, but again missed the taste of coffee. It's one of life's great pleasures, especially because her husband makes it, she said.
"Nothing is as satisfying to me as a cup of coffee in the morning," she said.
New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org/
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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