If your most important meeting of the day is with a barista, you're not alone, as the average Brit consumes 500g of coffee a year (around 200 cups).

Although high coffee intake has been loosely linked to high levels of cholesterol and the risk of coronary heart disease, recent research claims it may have one major health benefit that trumps them all – it could make you live longer.

A new 14-year study by the National Cancer Institute (the largest ever analysis of the link between coffee consumption and mortality) claims that men who drink at least six cups of coffee a day reduce their risk of dying by 12%.

For latte-loving women (those who guzzle four to five cups a day), the risk of dying was 15% lower than non-coffee drinkers. Even one cup a day makes a difference, as the study found a 5% decrease in mortality in those who drank a single cup daily.

Researchers added that this ‘coffee effect’ was seen across all causes of death, including heart and respiratory disease, stroke, accidents and diabetes.

However, this was in the exception of cancer, as cancer-related deaths were slightly higher among male coffee drinkers.

"There have been concerns for a long time that coffee might be a risky behaviour," explains study leader Neal Freedman in a statement.

"The results offer some reassurance that it's not a risk factor for future disease."

The study reviewed the coffee habits of more than 402,000 people between 1995 and 2008.

Although the initial study contradicted the findings above by discovering a higher risk of death among coffee drinkers, this was only because so many of them smoked cigarettes too.

Once researchers took out the smoking element, they found a link between coffee and low mortality.

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Interestingly, it didn’t matter whether the coffee contained caffeine, leading researchers to question whether the main reason was the caffeine or the act of making, serving or drinking coffee that protects people from death.

For example, making coffee may be a soothing ritual or it could engender more social contact among some people.

Despite the findings, researchers stressed that this study was purely “observational” and could not determine whether or not coffee was the ultimate cause of low mortality.

"Given the observational nature of our study, it is not possible to conclude that the inverse relationship between coffee consumption and mortality reflects cause and effect,” explained Dr Freedman.

"However, we can speculate about plausible mechanisms by which coffee consumption might have health benefits. Coffee contains more than 1000 compounds that might affect the risk of death.”

Dr Euan Paul from The British Coffee Association told HuffPost Lifestyle: “This important research adds to the overwhelming weight of evidence which demonstrates that moderate coffee consumption of 4-5 cups of coffee per day is safe and may be associated with certain health benefits.

“Whilst more research is required to determine whether the inverse association seen in this study is causal, these results are particularly encouraging because they build on previous research which has also suggested an inverse association between coffee consumption and total and cause-specific mortality.”

Not convinced? Take at look at other health benefits of coffee discovered by scientists…

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  • Coffee Could Save Your Brain

    ... Well, maybe. A study in the <em>Journal of Alzheimer's Disease</em> suggests that there's something in coffee - though researchers have yet to determine what exactly that "something" is - interacts with caffeine to boost the levels of granulocyte colony stimulating factor (GCSF), a growth factor that seems to be able to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/24/coffee-could-ward-alzheimers_n_882931.html" target="_hplink">fight off Alzheimer's disease in mice</a>. The amount of coffee needed in the study is equivalent to about four or five cups of coffee for humans. Researchers said <a href="http://www.j-alz.com/press/2011/20110621.html" target="_hplink">GCSF likely has this effect</a> because it causes stem cells in the bone marrow to come into the brain and remove the beta-amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease. It also has a role in forming brain cell connections and creating new brain neurons, researchers said.

  • Coffee Could Lower Depression In Women

    Women who drink a few cups of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/27/coffee-cuts-depression-women_n_982122.html" target="_hplink">caffeinated coffee have a lower risk of depression</a> than women who don't drink any coffee, according to a Harvard study. That research, published in the <em>Archives of Internal Medicine</em>, shows that women who drink two to three cups of coffee a day have a 15 percent lower risk, while women who drink four or more cups of coffee a day have a 20 percent lower risk. Study research Dr. Albert Ascherio <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/27/coffee-cuts-depression-women_n_982122.html" target="_hplink">told HuffPost</a> earlier that "caffeine is known to affect the brain," because it "modulates the release of mood transmitters." "I'm not saying we're on the path to discovering a new way to prevent depression," he said. "But I think you can be reassured that if you are drinking coffee, it is coming out as a positive thing."

  • Coffee Could Lower Men's Prostate Cancer Risk

    A Harvard School of Public Health study shows that men who drink six cups of coffee a day have a 60% decreased <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/18/coffee-can-cut-prostate-c_n_863472.html" target="_hplink">chance of developing a dangerous form of prostate cancer</a>, as well as a 20% decreased chance of developing any other kinds of prostate cancer. The study, published in the <em>Journal of the National Cancer Institute</em>, also shows that just <a href="http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/05/17/jnci.djr151.abstract" target="_hplink">drinking just some coffee a day</a> - just one to three cups - could still cut prostate cancer risk by 30%.

  • Coffee Could Decrease Parkinson's Risk

    Drinking <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20182023" target="_hplink">a few cups of coffee a day</a> could lower the risk of developing Parkinson's disease by as much as 25%, according to a study published last year in the <em>Journal of Alzheimer's Disease</em>. In that review of studies, which was published in the <em>Journal of Alzheimer's Disease</em>, researchers examined 26 studies that involved 125,000 British people, to find that <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7815087/Coffee-can-cut-chances-of-developing-Parkinsons-disease-according-to-new-research.html" target="_hplink">two or three cups of coffee</a> seemed to have the optimal effect, <em>The Telegraph</em> reported.

  • Coffee Could Ward Off The World's Most Common Cancer

    New research presented at the American Association for Cancer Research conference shows that coffee could help to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/24/coffee-most-common-cancer_n_1025089.html" target="_hplink">ward off basal cell carcinoma</a>, the most common cancer in the world. Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that women who drink three or more cups of caffeinated coffee a day have a 20% lower risk of the skin cancer, while men had a 9% lower risk. Decaf coffee didn't seem to have the same protective effect -- so "our study shows that the inverse association with BCC appears due to caffeine, not other components in the coffee consumption," study researcher Fengju Song, Ph.D., earlier <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/24/coffee-most-common-cancer_n_1025089.html" target="_hplink">told HuffPost</a>.

  • Coffee Could Protect You From Type 2 Diabetes

    Drinking coffee is associated with a <a href="http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/169/22/2053" target="_hplink">lower Type 2 diabetes risk</a>, with more coffee consumption linked to a greater decrease in risk, according to an <em>Archives of Internal Medicine</em> review of studies from 2009. In that review, researchers looked at data from more than 450,000 people in 18 studies, and found that for every extra cup of coffee drank a day, a person's risk of Type 2 diabetes decreased by 7%. However, researchers cautioned that "the putative <a href="http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/169/22/2053" target="_hplink">protective effects of these beverages</a> warrant further investigation in randomized trials."

  • Coffee (Or At Least, The Caffeine!) Can Help You Proofread Better

    The caffeine in coffee could actually help you to <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2011-23154-001/" target="_hplink">spot grammar errors</a>, according to a new study in the <em>Journal of Experimental Psychology</em>. Researchers found that <a href="http://bodyodd.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/10/26/8498728-tank-up-on-java-unleash-your-inner-editor-says-study?ocid=twitter" target="_hplink">caffeine helped students to correct errors</a> in subject-verb agreement and verb tense, MSNBC reported. However, the caffeine still didn't seem to make a difference at identifying misspelled words - sorry.

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