You know that moment in the day when you’re craving a second cup of coffee, then try to convince yourself not to do it? Well, pouring another cup may not be so bad for you, mama. Yet another study has linked drinking moderate amounts of coffee to health benefits—even if you sweeten it with a little sugar.

(Why can’t they ever hail a little half and half, too?!)

While a study in Annals of Internal Medicine doesn’t say that creamers do you a world of good, they did look at coffee and sugar. Researchers examined data on 171,616 people who drank coffee over a seven-year span. Participants had an average age of 56 and didn’t have cancer or cardiovascular disease at the start of the study period.

Coffee linked to longevity

Those who drank 1 ½ to 3 ½ cups of coffee a day—even with about 1 teaspoon of sugar—were up to 30% less likely to die from any cause through the end of the study period. 

Whether you get your jolt from ground, instant, or decaf coffee doesn’t matter, the researchers say. 

Relying on artificial sweeteners to sweeten your brew? The researchers say the results were inconclusive in those who used those. (Research, on the whole, doesn’t sing too many praises about artificial sweeteners.)

Here’s what the study doesn’t say: It doesn’t prove that coffee is responsible for the lower mortality risk—it simply showed a link between longevity and moderate coffee consumption. (That means coffee can’t exactly save your life… especially if you add less-than-great-for-you ingredients like cream and a ton of sugar.)

Is coffee good for you?

Every few years, it seems like a new study comes out either praising or condemning coffee. There are benefits linked to drinking coffee in moderate amounts, such as a lower risk for depression, Parkinson’s disease, and Type 2 diabetes. But it can have downsides, like jitters and anxiety.

Is coffee healthy? Of course, how healthy it is for you is all about how you take your coffee. Coffee's health benefits are likely tied to the fact that it's full of antioxidants, but if you load it with artificial sweeteners, you may not be doing your body any favors (though you may be able to get through a midday slump with a toddler who won’t nap… just sayin’.) 

What to know about the coffee data

There are a few noteworthy things to remember about this research. It was conducted by researchers from China on data from participants in the U.K. The data is more than 10 years old. And it’s also from people who largely consume tea.

So, coffee was associated with a lower risk of death in the study. But people did, you know, die. The researchers recorded 3,177 deaths—1,725 from cancer and 628 from cardiovascular disease during that seven-year span. Again, coffee isn’t going to “save” your life, but it may not be as “bad” for you as some of us think. (Personally, if it gets you through the day as a new mom, I’m pro caffeinating.)

While the “1 teaspoon of sugar is OK” notion may sound good, the researchers say that the average amount of sugar noted in the study is much lower than in specialty drinks at coffee shops. 

That said, if you’re counting on a cup of joe to get you through the day, don’t give yourself too much guilt over it. Maybe just lay off the half and half—unlike me, who will continue to put a heaping splash of it in my morning cuppa.

Expecting? Talk to your doctor and ask about limiting your coffee intake, because there is evidence that it can affect the baby’s birth weight if you’re pregnant. (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says it's safe for pregnant women to consume up to 200 milligrams of caffeine a day—about one 12-ounce cup.) 

Sources

Huxley R, et al. Coffee, Decaffeinated Coffee, and Tea Consumption in Relation to Incident Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2009;169(22):2053–2063. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.439

Liu D, et al. Association of Sugar-Sweetened, Artificially Sweetened, and Unsweetened Coffee Consumption With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality: A Large Prospective Cohort Study. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2022;175:909-917. doi:10.7326/M21-2977.

Santos C, et al. Caffeine Intake and Dementia: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. 14 Apr. 2010 : S187 – S204.

Sirotkin A, et al. The Anti-Obesity and Health-Promoting Effects of Tea and Coffee. Physiological Research. 2021 Apr 30;70(2):161-168. doi: 10.33549/physiolres.934674.

Wang L, et al. Coffee and caffeine consumption and depression: A meta-analysis of observational studies. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 2016;50(3):228-242. doi:10.1177/0004867415603131.