A scientific study has found a link between caffeine consumption and a reduced risk of systemic inflammation – a process that can lead to a spate of chronic diseases including cancer, dementia, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis and even depression. In short, coffee drinkers tend to live longer than abstainers. (Turns out your overpriced espresso machine was actually worth the money.)
Age-related inflammation is one of the biggest killers of the elderly. Indeed, it is estimated that more than 90 percent of all noncommunicable diseases of aging are associated with chronic inflammation.
Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine analysed the blood samples, survey data and medical and family histories of more than 100 people. They found that systemic inflammation – and the chronic diseases that come with it – only occurred in some older study participants.
Interestingly, those who were unaffected by age-related inflammation (and thus, enjoy a lower mortality rate) tended to drink more caffeinated beverages. Subsequent laboratory experiments discovered that the mechanism was directly countered by caffeine and associated compounds. (Blood from the group with low cluster activity was enriched for caffeine and a number of its metabolites, compared with blood from the group with high cluster activity.)
By incubating immune cells with caffeine and its breakdown products along with the inflammation-triggering nucleic acid metabolites, the researchers were able to prevent the latter from exerting their powerful inflammatory effect on the cells.
“That something many people drink — and actually like to drink — might have a direct benefit came as a surprise to us,” said Davis, who noted that the study did not prove a causal link.
“What we’ve shown is a correlation between caffeine consumption and longevity. And we’ve shown more rigorously, in laboratory tests, a very plausible mechanism for why this might be so.”
In even better news, the associated metabolites that were found to counter age-related inflammation included theophylline, which is found in tea, and theobromine, which is found in chocolate.
So the next time someone criticises you for drinking too much coffee, throw this study in their face along with your mug of hot Joe.
[Via Stanford Medicine]