People who drink coffee every day may live longer than those who do not drink the hot beverage, the largest study of its kind has found.
Researchers looked at over 520,000 people over the age of 35 in 10 European countries, including the UK, France, Spain and Denmark. The participants' diets were assessed using questionnaires and interviews and all were followed up for 16 years.
At the end of this 16-year period, almost 42,000 people had died from a number of causes, such as cancer, heart failure and stroke.
Following a careful analysis, the researchers found that those who consumed the most coffee per day had a lower risk of death from all causes compared to those who did not drink coffee.
They also found that decaffeinated coffee had a similar effect.
A further study of 14,000 of the participants noted that coffee drinkers may have healthier lives overall and better glucose control compared to those who do not drink coffee.
"We found that higher coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, and specifically for circulatory and digestive diseases. Importantly, these results were similar across all of the 10 European countries, with variable coffee drinking habits and customs," explained the study's lead author, Dr Marc Gunter, of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
He noted that higher coffee consumption was linked with a more favourable liver function profile and immune response.
"This, along with the consistency of results with other studies in the US and Japan, gives us greater confidence that coffee may have beneficial health effects," he said.
The researchers acknowledged that more studies are needed to find out which compounds in coffee may be benefiting health.
They also pointed out that due to the limitations of their observational research, ‘we are not at the stage of recommending people to drink more or less coffee'.
"That said, our results suggest that moderate coffee drinking - up to around three cups per day - is not detrimental to your health, and that incorporating coffee into your diet could have health benefits."
Details of these findings are published in the journal, Annals of Internal Medicine.