Longevity Articles

Can Coffee, Chocolate, and Wine Help You Live Longer?

Can Coffee, Chocolate, and Wine Help You Live Longer?

Many people say that the best things in life are bad for us—but this may not be the case when it comes to coffee, chocolate, and wine. We’re not talking Java Frappuccinos, Snickers bars, and downing bottles of wine nightly, but consuming moderate amounts of coffee, high-cacao dark chocolate, and red wine provides health benefits that may extend to increased longevity. Although there are several caveats to consider—especially regarding wine—the research suggests that certain compounds in these delicious items may help you live longer. 

Coffee and Longevity

As one of the most commonly consumed beverages worldwide, coffee is the leading source of antioxidants in the American diet (which says a lot about our fruit and vegetable intake). Through their daily cup (or three) of joe, coffee provides people all over the globe with various health-promoting compounds that may help them live longer.

Although the number of antioxidants can vary by roasting and brewing method, most coffee contains molecules called melanoidins, diterpenes, and a group of phenolic compounds called chlorogenic acids. These compounds are thought to provide the majority of coffee’s antioxidant effects. In addition, having higher levels of the metabolite 2-furoylglycine (reflective of greater coffee intake) is associated with better cognitive health.

Coffee consumption may improve cellular markers of aging like increased telomere length and expression of autophagy. One study of female nurses found a positive correlation between telomere length and coffee consumption. Those who drank three cups of coffee daily were 36% more likely to have longer telomeres than non-coffee drinkers.

Some research has suggested that drinking coffee can slow epigenetic aging—a marker of internal or biological age that typically measures chemical changes or “tags” on DNA. This includes DNA methylation—the addition of a methyl group to DNA. This recent 2024 study found that people who consumed more coffee were more likely to have slower epigenetic aging.

Population-based studies have found that coffee is associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality. In research with almost 119,000 adults with metabolic dysfunction, moderate coffee intake (1 to 3 cups per day) was linked to a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular, respiratory, or any other causes. In contrast, more than 4 cups per day increased the mortality risk. 

Cautions and Caveats

The caffeine content of coffee can vary widely, ranging from 50 mg to over 300 mg per cup. Caffeine is well-known to stimulate the central nervous system, providing some people with mental alertness and others with anxious jitters.

How we respond to caffeine comes down to genetics, as some people metabolize it quicker than others. The differences in caffeine metabolism come from the gene CYP1A2, which controls an enzyme of the same name that regulates how quickly you metabolize caffeine through your system.

People with the “slow metabolizer” phenotype of the CYP1A2 gene tend to experience more negative effects from drinking caffeine than fast metabolizers. This extends to both acute caffeine-related symptoms (anxiety, jitters, impacted sleep, etc.) and longer-term effects, like higher blood pressure. 

Another factor to be aware of is what you add to your coffee. If you have six cups of sweet and creamy coffee daily, the health benefits will likely be negated by the detrimental effects of sugar. Lastly, as caffeine is a drug, chronic consumption of coffee can lead to caffeine addiction. Upon quitting caffeine, withdrawal symptoms of headaches and irritability are common. 

Can Coffee, Chocolate, and Wine Help You Live Longer?

Chocolate and Longevity 

Cocoa (from cacao beans) also contains more phenolic antioxidants than most commonly consumed foods. The prominent polyphenol in cacao is theobromine, which can cross the highly selective blood-brain barrier and support cognitive health by influencing blood flow and neuron activity. 

Other phenolic antioxidants in cacao include catechin, epicatechin, proanthocyanidins, and flavan-3-ols. These antioxidants benefit cardiometabolic health by reducing inflammatory pathways, increasing endothelial function, and improving insulin sensitivity. As cardiometabolic and neurodegenerative conditions are leading causes of death amongst older adults, consuming high-cocoa chocolate could extend longevity by improving these areas of health.

In a study with almost 1,200 adults who recently had a serious cardiac event, those who consumed more chocolate in the year before the event had significantly reduced mortality rates compared to non-chocolate eaters. Compared with those who never ate chocolate, those who consumed it once or twice per week had a reduced risk of cardiac-related mortality by 44% and 66%, respectively.

However, it’s important to note that observational diet studies like these do not determine causality and are notoriously unreliable, as many people cannot accurately remember what they ate yesterday, let alone over the past year.

Conversely, a randomized controlled trial found that daily dark chocolate intake (just 30 calories per day) effectively lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure and increased levels of the vasodilating compound nitric oxide compared to those eating white chocolate. As uncontrolled high blood pressure increases mortality risk by 62%, consuming dark chocolate or cacao may be an effective way to extend longevity. 

Cautions and Caveats

Keep in mind that milk chocolate or candy bars won’t contain significant amounts of theobromine or other beneficial antioxidants. Dark chocolate has 70% cacao or more, but if you can handle the bitterness of 90% and above, go as high as possible to get the most benefits with the least sugar. Many dark chocolate products still contain high amounts of sugar, so be cautious about how much sugar you consume in the name of antioxidants.

Wine and Longevity

Red wine contains various bioactive compounds, with the most famous being resveratrol. Resveratrol is a compound found in several foods, including red grapes, cocoa, peanuts, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries. This plant-based substance has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, creating red wine’s claim to nutritional fame over the past few decades. Red wine also contains the polyphenols anthocyanins, ellagitannins, and catechins.

Researchers have studied resveratrol for its ability to boost the capacity of NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) to raise NAD+ levels—a compound that decreases with age but is needed by every cell in the body.

Resveratrol is well-known for its antioxidant activity. It is thought to support the aging process by activating SIRT1—an essential enzyme that helps the health of our cells and their energy powerhouses, the mitochondria. It also promotes autophagy, our body’s internal recycling program that clears damaged and dysfunctional compounds. Low levels of autophagy are linked to aging and disease development, as autophagy is essential for protecting the quality and function of our cells.

Research has looked at the benefits of red wine intake as a whole, showing that consuming 0.15 L (5 ounces) of red wine lowered the risk of overall mortality and certain cardiovascular conditions. This amount is consistent with the alcohol guidelines for moderate consumption. 

Another study looked at Dutch men and wine intake, finding that men who drank approximately half of a glass of red wine daily substantially reduced their risk of cardiovascular conditions and mortality. Life expectancy was about five years longer in men who consumed this small amount of wine compared with those who did not drink alcohol at all.

Lastly, a systematic review published by researchers in the USDA concluded that low average alcohol intake (without ever binge drinking) is associated with a lower risk of mortality from any cause compared with never drinking alcohol. Based on 60 studies, evidence suggested that the lowest levels of risk were generally up to 1 or 1.5 daily drinks on average—but any higher than that was significantly associated with increased mortality. 

Cautions and Caveats

Studies on red wine and health have seen widely differing results, which may be due, in part, to the varying concentrations of resveratrol in different types of wine. Another critical component is the amount of alcohol. As seen in the studies mentioned, drinking between one-half and one glass (3 to 5 ounces) of red wine daily produces beneficial effects on health and longevity, especially in regard to cardiovascular health and mortality. 

However, exceeding these low doses (which many people easily and regularly do) is known to negatively impact several aspects of health, including heart, brain, and liver function.  

Plus, genetics may play a role in who benefits from moderate alcohol consumption and who does not. In one study, people who were not carriers of the genetic allele APOE4 (the one strongly linked to neurodegenerative conditions) benefited more from red wine consumption than those with the APOE4 allele.

Additionally, what you eat while you drink wine may affect how it impacts your health. Research shows that combining red wine with a Mediterranean-style meal reduced oxidized LDL levels (a marker of oxidative stress and heart health). Conversely, drinking red wine with a meal from McDonald’s or drinking it alone (while fasting) increased oxidated LDL. These results suggest one reason why people in the Mediterranean regions—who are regular wine drinkers—do not experience negative health effects from their nightly glass.

Overall, if you choose to drink red wine, moderation is vital to experience benefits without venturing into harmful territory. In the United States, moderate alcohol consumption is one drink daily for women and two for men, with one drink equating to five ounces of wine.

Your Takeaways

While some of these studies suggest that moderate consumption of wine, chocolate, and coffee may protect against some aspects of aging, this is not an excuse to binge on bottles of wine or down several Venti cups of coffee each morning. As with most things in life, moderation is key.

Another vital caveat to consider is the observational nature of most of these studies, meaning they cannot determine causality. Therefore, we can’t say that moderate wine, coffee, and chocolate consumption directly leads to increased longevity or better health. Because of this factor, researchers recommend randomized controlled trials in humans to elucidate these results fully. 

To experience the benefits without veering into adverse effects, consider drinking 1 to 3 cups of coffee daily (without sugar or cream), 1 or 2 squares of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa, with closer to 100% being best), and 3 to 5 ounces of red wine alongside a Mediterranean-style meal. Enjoy!


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