Chronic inflammation is associated with more than 90% of age related non-communicable diseases (not caused by infectious agents), which may lead to conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, many cancers, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis and depression. Coffee drinking has been shown to have benefits to reducing mortality for both all cause and cardiovascular deaths (Bhatti et al. 2013), although the mechanism have not been investigated until now.
Researchers at Stanford University in a multi-year study took multiple blood samples, surveys and medical history of family members from 100 subjects. Research data were analysed by in-depth genetic and epidemiological analysis.
Findings have shown an association between caffeine intake and a fundamental inflammatory mechanism linked to human ageing and the chronic diseases that come with it. More specifically, the study discovered metabolites, or breakdown products of nucleic acids (the molecules that act as building blocks for our genes) can trigger inflammation that can be a driver of cardiovascular disease and mortality rates. However, when coffee is consumed, the caffeine and other metabolites contained within, may counteract the action of these circulating nucleic acids, leading to a longer life span for those who drink coffee.
The researchers then focused on gene clusters that are associated with the activity of IL-1 beta protein, which is an important mediator of the inflammatory response and is involved in cell death and cell growth. Two groups of the older subjects were assessed, one with high activation of the gene clusters or low activation of the gene clusters. The older subjects with the high gene activity had high blood pressure, increased likelihood of stiff arteries, risk factor for cardiovascular complications and eight times more likely to have a family member die before the age of 90. The high activation group also had high free radicals and IL-1 beta. After reviewing the bloods from both groups (low and high activation), it was confirmed that the blood from the low group had caffeine and its metabolites (theophylline and theobromine).
To further confirm the associations, immune cells were incubated and nurtured to increase levels of IL-1 beta production. After these metabolites were injected into mice, there was systemic inflammation and increased blood pressure caused. Although, if caffeine was added to immune cells, this response seems to be prevented and the same inflammatory effect on the cells was decreased.
Stanford University professor David Furman says ‘What we’ve shown is a correlation between caffeine consumption and longevity’.
This therefore shows that caffeine may lead to longevity through the control of inflammatory responses.