Up to four cups of coffee a day is not harmful to health, in fact it may even be beneficial, new research suggests.
In another boon for coffee lovers, an observational study of 20,000 Spanish residents has found an association between regular coffee consumption and a lower risk of premature death.
The research, presented at the ESC (European Society of Cardiology) Congress in Barcelona this week, found the risk of early death was cut by nearly two-thirds among those who drank four cups of coffee every day.
"Our findings suggest that drinking four cups of coffee each day can be part of a healthy diet in healthy people," lead researcher and cardiologist Dr Adela Navarro said.
The study followed the health of 22,500 Spanish university graduates from 1999.
The average age of the participants was 37.7 years and each was required to answer a questionnaire to collect information on coffee consumption, lifestyle and socio-demographic characteristics, and previous health conditions.
Patients were followed-up for an average of 10 years.
During the 10-year period, 337 participants died. The researchers found that participants who consumed at least four cups of coffee per day had a 64 per cent lower risk of "all-cause mortality" than those who never, or almost never, consumed coffee.
The older the person was, the greater the benefit.
"In the project we found an inverse association between drinking coffee and the risk of all-cause mortality, particularly in people aged 45 years and above," Dr Navarro said.
"This may be due to a stronger protective association among older participants."
However, experienced dietitian Dr Ben Desbrow, who is an Associate Professor in Sports Nutrition at Griffith University, says all they've found is an association, not a cause.
"There's a big difference between something that is an association and something that's a causation," Dr Desbrow said.
"It could be that people who drink coffee on a regular basis take time out from work, have better social relationships; it could be a whole range of things that concur concurrently when people consume coffee."
It could also suggest that a person who is consuming four cups of coffee a day is more affluent, which has been linked to better health, Dr Desbrow added.
"The take home message from this is that people shouldn't be worried about using coffee in small to moderate doses," he said.
Alarm bells should ring, however, once a person reaches a point where they can't survive without coffee.
"Then you can suffer a range of consequences of caffeine over-exposure, whether it be altered sleep patterns or headaches if you don't consume caffeine," Prof Desbrow said.