Science’s Explanation: Why Coffee Drinkers Live Longer

Fresh tasty espresso cup of coffee with coffee beans on dark background

There is actual science behind the fact that coffee drinkers often live longer than their non-caffeinated counterparts. Researchers have discovered that caffeine can counteract the inflammatory reactions that lead to cardiovascular disease later in life.

As if you need another reason to brew a fresh cup of joe every morning, the science appears to be increasingly on the side of those who consume the delicious brew.

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Lead author David Furman, Ph.D., of the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation, and Infection at Stanford University in California, and colleagues published their study in the journal Nature Medicine.

That something many people drink – and actually like to drink – might have a direct benefit came as a surprise to us. We didn’t give some of the mice coffee and the others decaf. What we’ve shown is a correlation between caffeine consumption and longevity. And we’ve shown more rigorously, in laboratory tests, a very plausible mechanism for why this might be so.” – Mark Davis, Ph.D.

Several studies have already pointed out the health benefits of drinking coffee. One study, for example, discovered that people who drank one to five cups of coffee per day had a lower risk of all-cause mortality than their coffee-abstaining counterparts. However, these previous studies did not pinpoint why coffee drinkers actually live longer. Furman and his colleagues have found the association at last.

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Furman and his team set their goal high. They wanted to figure out the exact inflammatory processes that cause heart problems later in life.

The team analyzed data from two groups of people: one group of healthy adults between ages 20 and 30, and one group of healthy adults 60 and older. They assessed blood samples from the participants and identified two gene clusters that were more highly activated in the second group. They discovered that these gene clusters were linked to the production of IL-1-beta, a type of circulating inflammatory protein. Next, the team took 23 older subjects and placed them into one of two groups based on their activity levels in one or both gene clusters. Then, the research team analyzed the participants’ medical history. Among the 12 subjects with high gene cluster activity, nine had high blood pressure, compared with only one of the 11 participants with low gene cluster activity. – Power of Positivity

After looking at the participants’ caffeine intake, the researchers found that the blood of older adults with low gene cluster activity was more likely to contain caffeine metabolites, such as theophylline and theobromine. When the researchers incubated immune cells with the caffeine metabolites and the nucleic acid metabolites, they discovered that the caffeine metabolites prevented the inflammatory effects of the nucleic acid metabolites.

Co-senior author Mark Davis, Ph.D., also of the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection at Stanford, says these discoveries 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.”

If you’re a coffee drinker, the news just keeps getting better.

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