Caffeine might help fight systemic inflammation in older adults, according to research published in the journal Nature Medicine. This could explain why coffee drinkers tend to live longer than non-coffee drinkers, since research suggests inflammation is associated with a range of health issues such as cardiovascular disease.
Senior study author David Furman, a consulting associate professor at the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection, and his colleagues discovered that a natural process occurring in the genes of some older adults leads to higher rates of inflammation. And according to their study, it’s this inflammation that may be the driver of cardiovascular disease.
They examined inflammation levels in the blood samples of 100 younger (ages 20-30) and older (60-89) adults participating in a long-term health survey. The blood samples of the older participants who reported they consumed caffeinated beverages on a daily basis had lower levels of inflammation, with individuals who drank more than five cups caffeinated beverages a day having extremely low levels of inflammation.
“Our findings show that an underlying inflammatory process, which is associated with aging, is not only driving cardiovascular disease but is, in turn, driven by molecular events that we may be able to target and combat,” said co-author Mark Davis, director of the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection, in a statement.
In other words, inflammation is occurring at a cellular level, and caffeine may be one way of reducing it. That has the potential to make a difference in an individual’s health: The older participants with lower levels of inflammation had fewer stiff arteries ― an indicator for cardiovascular disease ― and were eight times more likely to be related to someone who lived to the age of 90 and beyond, according to the study.
“The relationship between caffeine consumption and lower inflammatory state was rather linear, so the more caffeinated drinks the subjects consumed, the lower their inflammatory state,” Furman said.
In addition to coffee, the study included the possibility of tea and soda as sources of caffeine; the self-reported estimates of caffeine consumption were based on a 15-item survey for 120 of the most commonly consumed caffeinated products in the U.S., Furman told The Huffington Post. But since coffee and tea pack even more antioxidants and compounds that can help battle inflammation, he said, they’re a much better choice than, say, Red Bull or a can of soda (both of which are truly horrible for you, anyway).
The body of research that coffee can be good for you continues to grow. Coffee is linked to the decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes, depression and even multiple sclerosis. Needless to say, there’s more brewing in that cup than just a way to get out of bed in morning.
So if you’ve been trying to quit that java habit, don’t give up quite yet.