A new study has found regularly drinking coffee does not increase a person's risk of dying sooner, and may actually reduce death from heart disease.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that regular coffee drinking (up to 6 cups per day) is not associated with increased death rates in either men or women.

In addition, drinking both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee was associated with a lower rate of death from heart disease.

Study co-author Esther Lopez-Garcia says, "We found the consumption of coffee, even in high amounts ... six cups per day ... was associated with a lower risk of all cause mortality."

Some numbers:

  • Women who drank two to three cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a 25 per cent lower risk of death from heart disease
  • That same group of women had an 18 per cent lower risk of death caused by something other than cancer or heart disease.
  • In men, the same amount of coffee had no impact on risk of death during the follow-up years from 1986 to 2004.

Lopez-Garcia noted that the survey population was a healthy group of people. "We have to be cautious with our interpretation," she said. "We don't know how (coffee) affects other diseases."

Participants filled out questionnaires every two to four years, including questions about coffee drinking, dietary habits, smoking and other health conditions, and death from any cause, from heart disease and from cancer were compared.

Taking into account risk factors like body size, smoking, diet and specific diseases, people who drank more coffee were found to be less likely to die, mainly because of lower risk of heart disease deaths among coffee drinkers.

No association between drinking coffee and cancer death rates was found.

However, researchers say that caffeine doesn't seem to be associated with lower death rates, as people who drank decaffeinated coffee also had lower death rates.

According to Lopez-Garcia, "In coffee there are many other molecules and it may counterbalance the negative effets."

Researchers advise that while coffee may have a beneficial effect on health, people with chronic conditions like heart disease should speak to their doctor.