A major government study has found that frequent coffee drinkers have a lower risk of dying from various diseases compared to people who drink little or no coffee at all.

Published online in The New England Journal of Medicine, the report analyzed coffee-drinking habits of more than 400,000 men and women ages 50 to 71. It was the largest study ever to look at the relationship between health and consuming coffee.

Previous studies have offered conflicting results on the relative benefits or harms associated with regular coffee consumption, according to the New York Times.

"While coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant that may temporarily increase heart rate and blood pressure in some people, coffee also contains hundreds of unique compounds and antioxidants that may confer health benefits," the Times reported. "Further confusing much of the research into coffee is the fact that many coffee drinkers are also smokers, and it has been difficult to untangle the relative health effects of coffee and cigarettes."

To learn more, the Times reported, researchers from the National Institutes of Health analyzed diet and health information collected from questionnaires filled out by 229,119 men and 173,141 women who were members of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) between 1995 and 1996. The respondents were followed until 2008, by which point 52,000 had died.

"As expected, the researchers found that the regular coffee drinkers in the group were also more likely to be smokers," the Times reported. "They ate more red meat and fewer fruits and vegetables, exercised less and drank more alcohol – all behaviors associated with poor health.

"But once the researchers controlled for those risks, the data showed that the more coffee a person consumed, the less likely he or she was to die from a number of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, infections and even injuries and accidents."

In general, the risk of dying was about 15 percent lower for women and about 10 percent lower for men who drank two to six or more cups of coffee per day.

The association between coffee and lower risk of dying was similar whether the coffee drinker consumed caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee.

To read the study in The New England Journal of Medicine, go to http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1112010.

To find McKinney Chamber members who sell coffee, please go to http://www.mckinneychamber.com/search.