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Drink Up: Coffee, Chamomile Tea Could Help You Live Longer

This week was great. First, I got to start the morning with a big mug of coffee while reading about a new study linking a big mug of coffee (or three) to a longer life.

And then, at night, I sipped a cup of chamomile tea and read about a recent study suggesting that this relaxing herbal brew can help older women live longer.

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Isn’t research wonderful when it supports what you already like to do?

So first, the coffee: There’s been a steady pour of studies recently linking a regular coffee habit with a variety of health benefits. This one, led by Harvard nutrition researchers, found that drinking coffee every day could help you live longer, with a lower risk of early death from heart disease and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

The research was based on 30 years of health information collected from more than 200,000 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, including food-consumption questionnaires completed every few years. The study was published November 16 in the journal Circulation.

The biggest benefit was seen among nonsmokers who drank three to five cups of coffee daily. They were 15 percent less likely to die early of any cause, compared with nondrinkers. Those who drank more than five cups daily had a 12 percent lower risk, one to three cups daily led to an 8 percent reduced risk, and one cup a day provided a 6 percent reduced risk.

Even better, both regular and decaf coffee were associated with longer survival — which is important in light of recent studies that find that people process caffeine at different speeds. For those who process it slowly, drinking regular coffee may raise the risk of heart attacks and high blood pressure. For them, decaf would be a better, but still healthy, choice.

The new study doesn’t prove that coffee is the cause of people’s longer survival, researchers noted. It only proves an association between people who live longer and drinking several cups of coffee daily.

Still, the bulk of evidence so far does suggest that coffee lovers can feel good about their favorite beverage, study leader Frank Hu, M.D., a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, told HealthDay. Of course, if you’re using coffee to help you function during the day because you don’t get enough sleep — that’s not so healthy, Hu added. But you already knew that.

As for chamomile tea, this herbal drink has been used for centuries to calm stomachs and help people relax before sleeping. There’s a good reason it’s by far the top-selling medicinal tea in the U.S.

And now a recent study published in The Gerontologist finds that drinking the tea can help older women live longer.

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston analyzed seven years of data from more than 1,600 Hispanic women and men ages 65 or older. Drinking chamomile tea lowered the risk of death from all causes among the women by 29 percent, compared with those who did not drink this tea. This difference was still found even after adjusting for demographics, health conditions and health behaviors.

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The effect was not found in men who reported they drank the tea, perhaps because “women were shown to be more frequent users of chamomile than men,” Bret Howrey, assistant professor of family medicine, said in a statement.

It’s not clear why drinking chamomile would be associated with reduced risk of death, but researchers noted that the herb has been touted for its cholesterol-lowering, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antiplatelet effects.

Plus, it tastes really good with a little honey.

Photo: elenaleonova/iStock

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