Researchers from Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, looked at data on coffee habits and health from more than 171,000 UK residents who didn't have cancer or heart disease at the start of the study over a period of seven years.
Previously, evidence has suggested coffee drinkers live longer - the researchers in China aimed to test whether that was true even when people add sugar to their daily brew.
They found that people who regularly drank unsweetened coffee were 16 to 21% less likely to die during the study than their peers who didn't drink coffee.
Study participants who drank between one and four cups of lightly sweetened coffee per day were 29 to 31% less likely to die during the study, according to the data.
Outcomes were less clear, the researchers found, for participants who used artificial sweeteners, which have seen similarly mixed results in previous research. Some experts and evidence say these products can be a safe, healthy swap for sugar, according to Mayo Clinic, while others raise concerns about possible associations with cancer or metabolic-health issues.
However, the evidence doesn't necessarily endorse coffee drinks with high sugar concentrations as healthy, according to an accompanying editorial by Dr. Christina Wee, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, on Southern Medical University's study. Participants added about a teaspoon of sugar per cup, on average, which is much less than the amount of sweetener that typically goes in prepared or blended coffee drinks.
Previous evidence that coffee is generally beneficial for longevity - no matter how you drink it - supports the findings.
Researchers have extensively studied coffee - and its main ingredient, caffeine - with a wealth of data suggesting it's not only safe in moderation, but good for your health.
Previous studies suggest coffee drinkers live longer because they have a lower risk of illnesses like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Caffeine can also increase mental focus, benefit brain health - particularly as we age - and appears to be linked to a decreased risk of Parkinson's disease. The beverage is also tied to a lower risk of depression and suicide.
You can, however, have too much caffeine. Doses of more than 400 milligrams of caffeine (more than about four to five cups of coffee) can cause minor side effects like anxiety, jitters, rapid heart rate, and sweating, according to Mayo Clinic.
In extreme cases, concentrated caffeine can cause serious issues starting at about 1,200 milligrams - although you'd have to drink more than 12 cups of coffee for that to happen. Serious, and sometimes fatal, caffeine overdoses have occurred from a single, concentrated dose of caffeine powder that was the equivalent of more than 50 cups of coffee.
But for the average coffee drinker, who has up to five cups of coffee spread throughout the day, the habit will likely not result in any major side effects.
Beyond caffeine, coffee contains a number of other compounds that could positively influence your health - including polyphenols, which research shows can reduce inflammation, improve gut bacteria, boost metabolism, and moderate blood sugar.
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