Good news for caffeine fiends! A new study shows that consuming caffeine can help you live longer. This study is not the first to suggest a connection between coffee and longevity, but it does go further that previous ones in terms of pinpointing how coffee increases lifespan.
Coffee Quells Inflammation
According to lead author David Furman, Ph.D., of the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation, and Infection at Stanford University, coffee can counteract an inflammatory process that leads to the development of heart disease. Furman and his colleagues began by attempting to identify the underlying mechanisms that lead to poor heart health.
Drawing on data from the Stanford-Ellison cohort, the researchers identified a gene cluster linked to arterial stiffness, a key risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. They also found that participants whose records showed high activity levels for that cluster, and who were age 85 or older in 2008, were substantially more likely to have passed away by 2016.
Participants with high levels of activity for that cluster also had high levels of nucleic acid metabolites—which are produced by free radicals—in their blood. The researchers found that when they injected these metabolites into mice, the rodents’ blood pressure skyrockets and systemic inflammation ensued.
Coffee Stops Harmful Effects of Metabolites
The most exciting finding from the study was that caffeine seems to be able to counteract the negative effects of the metabolites.
When the researchers looked at participants’ caffeine intake, they saw that those who drank more caffeine were likely to also have lower levels of activity in the gene cluster linked to deteriorating heart health. When the researchers examined cells containing caffeine molecules and the metabolites, they found that the caffeine molecules counteracted the inflammatory effect of the metabolites.
Mark Davis, PhD., also of the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation, and Infection at Stanford, says “That something many people drink—and actually like to drink—might have a direct benefit came as a surprise to us.” He stated that the study reveals “an underlying inflammatory process” that drives cardiovascular disease and that “we may be able to target and combat.” According to Davis, the study shows “a correlation between caffeine consumption and longevity,” and the rigorous laboratory experiments show “a plausible mechanism for why this might be so.”
The Kind of Coffee Matters
This study is just the latest in a long litany of research on the benefits of drinking coffee. When discussing coffee’s benefits, however, it’s important to be clear about the ways many coffee drinkers unwittingly undermine its beneficial effects.
First, the kind of coffee you drink matters. Many budget brands are full of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides. It’s best to choose organic coffee, which is free of toxins, and likely to be harvested by workers who are paid a fair wage.
Second, if you can stomach it, black coffee is best. Added sugar, fake sugars, and creamers can negate its positive effect on your health. If you need to drink it lighter and sweeter, consider adding a spoonful of coconut oil or a plant-based milk of your choosing.