Cindy Laquidara favorite cup of coffeeThere’s nothing like a good cup of joe to get the morning started, or to cap off a nice meal. I’m likely preaching to the choir on this one. Apparently, over half of all American adults, 54% to be exact, drink coffee every single day. I’m sure we have corporate giants, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks, to thank for that–at least for making it easier to acquire at any given time or place–and thank them, we should. Recent studies show that 3-5 cups of java may reduce risk of heart attack, and just 1-5 cups could reduce the risk of early death, in general.

The long-term study compared the results of over 100,000 women of various ages, and 45,000 men, ages 40-75. Harvard’s Dr. Frank B. Hu looked at data regarding food consumption and behaviors from each of the participants, once every four years. What the results suggest is that moderate (up to 5 eight-ounce cups, daily) coffee drinkers lived slightly longer than those who did not consume the beverage, and appeared to have lower risk for chronic illnesses and, as previously mentioned, heart attacks.

According to researchers, it was the coffee itself, not the caffeine, which had this effect; those who prefered the beverage decaffeinated, experienced the same benefits. Coffee (in reality, just seeds of berries otherwise known as a coffee plant) contains antioxidants and minerals, which in addition to the benefits previously mentioned, may reduce chronic inflammation and serve as an antidepressant. However, it is important to note that caffeine can be unhealthy if consumed too much.

While this news is great for coffee drinkers, some did not see the benefit. The research showed that smoking inhibited the healthy effects seen in non-smokers. Whether or not that may be due to smoking itself or the chemicals within cigarette products was not disclosed. Researchers did, however, notice the difference and found it important enough to highlight.

Of course, I don’t need any other reason to have my coffee in the morning, but the news is reassuring. While coffee itself was not the sole factor in overall health, and therefore should not be considered an alternative to medication, it was the link in those who escaped premature death, by a rate of about 15%; more importantly, it did not prove to have any adverse effects on health, as some might assume. So, let go of the guilt. Have your coffee, in moderation, as a part of a normal diet. I know I will.