Sound Science: Cozy Up with Some Caffeine

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Aging in humans is often accompanied by chronic, low-grade inflammation. This inflammation poses a risk for the elderly as most age-related diseases start due to inflammation. Scientists aren’t sure what causes this inflammation and its role in adverse health conditions. That’s why research identifying the pathways (a series of actions inside a cell that cause it to change) that control age-related inflammation is important.

New study examines the link between caffeine and reduced inflammationcoffee stirred caffeine

In a study recently published in Nature Medicine, Furman, et al. investigated the role of a key pathway involved in inflammation and how caffeine (a beloved ingredient that makes me tolerable in the morning) impacts pathways in aging participants. What makes this study so compelling is the use of both hypothesis-generating, survey-based data, and hypothesis-confirming, experimental data.

First, the study identified that a key pathway of inflammation, named the inflammasome pathway, was elevated in older participants and linked to cardiovascular health. Next, the study identified a link among age, caffeine consumption, and decreased inflammation via survey methods and experimental methods.

In other words, links among aging, caffeine consumption, and reduced inflammation were established and confirmed using a variety of methods. The combination of using the experimental data to confirm the survey data strengthens the significance and impact of the study’s findings.  Furthermore, the study conveys the importance of using hypothesis-generating methods from survey data and then confirming these findings with experimental methodologies.

Additional health benefits of caffeine

Beyond reducing inflammation, Dr. Julie M. Jones, Endowed Chair in Science at St. Catherine University, says: “When consumed in moderation, coffee has many health benefits. The caffeine in coffee, when used properly, can help you solve problems faster and be more alert. Too much coffee, however, can impact sleep patterns, especially when consumed late in the day.”

And the benefits don’t stop there.  Coffee consumption (which is the main vehicle of caffeine intake) may reduce the risk of diabetes (type 2) and high blood pressure, as well as depression. It has been shown not to be harmful and may be slightly beneficial in helping prevent coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, heart arrhythmias and stroke. There is some evidence to suggest that coffee-drinking may offer some protection against cognitive decline and the risk of Parkinson’s disease, and it may improve asthma control.

Moderation is key

Just like most things in nutrition and in life, it’s important to make sure you’re consuming moderate amounts of caffeine. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) just released its Scientific Opinion on caffeine safety, where they defined “moderate” caffeine intake for most people:

It’s not like I needed another reason to fuel my deep love for caffeine, but this study further cemented me in the caffeine camp.