Is There a Relationship Between Caffeine and Inflammation?
Coffee—it’s been demonized as an unhealthy addiction and heralded as a magic potion that helps stave off disease…and the jury is still out among scientists, researchers, and laypeople alike. While we know that coffee can increase anxiety and irritability, wreck sleep, and may even decrease insulin sensitivity, leading to blood sugar issues, research also shows that it may reduce the risk of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as well as a multitude of cardiovascular conditions.
So if you’re looking to get healthier, should you stick to your morning java or give it up?
New research adds one more point to the pros column for this rich, aromatic beverage. A new study published in the journal Nature Medicine found that older people who drank caffeinated beverages such as coffee had lower levels of activity in inflammatory gene clusters than older people who abstained from caffeine. These genes, when highly activated, were associated with the potent pro-inflammatory immune protein called IL-1-beta. Inflammation is at the source of most, if not all, chronic diseases associated with aging—and the participants who drank more than five cups of coffee a day showed the lowest levels of this inflammatory mechanism in their blood. Lab experiments revealed that caffeine and its compounds directly inhibited a damaging inflammatory pathway, which explains why those who imbibed caffeinated beverages had less inflammation.
“The more caffeine people consumed, the more protected they were against a chronic state of inflammation,” the lead study author David Furman told TIME Magazine.
The study analyzed blood samples of a little over one hundred people of varying ages, and not surprisingly, the older people by and large had more inflammatory genes activated than the younger people (inflammation tends to rise with age). However, the older people who had low activation of these genes—the ones who consumed more caffeine—also had much lower rates of high blood pressure, had decreased activity of free radicals (which ultimately harm and age the body), and were much less likely to have stiff arteries, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, than the group with higher activation of these genes. They also had more relatives who lived past age 90. When researchers took a closer look, they found that caffeine drinkers’ blood contained metabolites such as theophylline, found in tea, and theobromine. And when researchers incubated immune cells with caffeine and these metabolites, the immune cells were effectively protected from the damaging effects of inflammation.
Now, this isn’t a license to start pounding lattes. Excessive caffeine consumption can cause many adverse effects, such as tachycardia, heart palpitations, restlessness, gastrointestinal disturbances, insomnia, headaches, hormonal imbalance, and more—especially when you drink more than a cup or two per day. But if you’re on the fence about whether to give it up and you enjoy your morning coffee ritual, this may be one more reason to allow yourself that indulgence (stick with black, or use non-dairy milks such as coconut, almond, or hemp milk—and no sweetener). You might also want to try caffeinated tea.
Above all, what this study shows is that what we consume powerfully impacts our health, down to our very cells. If you suffer from conditions such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, inflammatory arthritis, joint pain, brain fog, or chronic fatigue—all of which are shown to have inflammation in common—a physician within the BodyLogicMD network can help you quell the inflammation in your body with a custom diet, supplement, and lifestyle protocol designed to remove inflammatory triggers and balance all your bodily systems. They can also order food sensitivity testing in order to identify the specific foods that may be causing your inflammatory immune reactions. Contact a BodyLogicMD-affiliated physician near you today to take the first step toward reclaiming vibrant, long-lasting health.