Caffeine has upsides and downsides for your health. But new research suggests your morning mug of joe could be a net positive when it comes to your cardiovascular risk.
Researchers from Stanford University in California reporting in the journal Nature Medicine found that the more caffeine older people consumed, the more protected they were against chronic inflammation. In the process the scientists uncovered an intriguing connection between aging, systemic inflammation, heart disease and caffeine.
The multi-year study involved analyzing the medical and health histories, blood samples, and survey responses from 100 people, both young and old. Using the data, the scientists discovered the mechanism behind a key inflammation process associated with chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes that tend to increase as we age.
Here’s what they found: Some of the older people in the study were shown to have increased production of immune cells called interleukin 1 beta (IL-1B). These cells help to fight off infections, but when their production is in overdrive, inflammatory conditions like heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease can result. In fact chronic inflammation is thought to underlie up to 90 percent of non-communicable diseases—from heart disease and diabetes to dementia, cancer, arthritis, and mood disorders.
However, other older individuals in the study had a lower production of these immune molecules. They tended to be healthier, have more elastic blood vessels, more close relatives who lived past age 90, and lower blood levels of substances called adenine and adenosine—breakdown products of DNA and RNA—that can spark inflammation.
How does caffeine fit in? It has been shown to block the effects of adenosine in the brain. In fact people in the study’s low-inflammation group reported consuming more caffeinated drinks, including coffee, tea, and soda. Scientists also found a correlation between higher blood levels of caffeine and fewer inflammatory molecules like IL-1B in the blood.
The research is preliminary, so researchers aren’t ready to recommend everyone take up a coffee habit. But if you already have one, the research shows, you may be getting unexpected benefits. Just be sure to take yours without sugar!
See www.knowyourrisk.com for info on Cleveland HeartLab’s inflammation tests.