Study: Heavy coffee drinking under 55 linked to early death

(CNN) - When you make coffee with breakfast, or grab a to-go cup at a cafe before work, or raid your office's break room for a cup in the afternoon, you're probably not thinking about how scientists are studying it. So we'll just tell you: Many studies have looked at the health effects of coffee, even though measuring the potential harms and benefits is not as easy as chugging a shot of espresso.


Since a whole range of lifestyle and genetic factors influence a person's physical well-being, it's hard to know exactly if, or how, or to what extent, coffee would be good or bad for anyone's longterm health.


The latest study, published in Mayo Clinic's Proceedings, found an association between drinking more than 28 cups of coffee a week and an increased risk of death from all causes, in people 55 years old and younger. One cup of coffee is 8 ounces.


That doesn't prove that coffee causes death. It also seems to contradict a study in the New England Journal of Medicine last year, which found that people who drink two or more cups of coffee a day have a reduced risk of dying from particular diseases than those who consume little or no coffee.


And a May 2011 study found that men who drink six or more cups a day had a decreased risk of fatal prostate cancer. How are we supposed to decide how much coffee to drink, when the information about its health effects is more confusing than a cafe menu written in a foreign language?


Experts say that the optimal dose of coffee varies widely, depending on the person. Different people have different tolerances for coffee. But in general, the authors of this new study emphasized a message of moderation.