Magic beans: Coffee protects against age-related inflammation
01/26/2017 // Vicki Batts // Views

Could coffee be the secret to feeling young forever? Recent research has found a beneficial aspect to coffee that may help protect against age-related inflammation. The connection between advancing age, inflammation, and coffee consumption may seem like an odd one, but it may help to prevent a number of diseases related to the aging process.

Researchers from Stanford University have found that coffee can counter the affects of a chronic inflammatory process that may develop in some --but not all-- people as they get older. This chronic inflammation is associated with being able to trigger a myriad of cardiovascular problems. Fortunately, however, it appears that coffee and the caffeine it contains may be able to provide relief.

The study, which was published in early January by the journal Nature Medicine, found that this age-related chronic inflammation is primary driver of cardiovascular disease and increased mortality rates. The research team found that breakdown products of nucleic acids -- which are the building blocks of our genetic material -- circulating in the blood can actually be a catalyst for damaging inflammation. These breakdown products are also known as "metabolites."

What is more interesting, however, is the finding that caffeine and its own metabolites may actually oppose the affects of the circulating nucleic acids. This activity may explain why coffee drinkers seem to live longer than non-coffee drinkers. (Related: Keep up with the latest headlines on healthy aging at

The study’s lead author, David Furman, PhD, a consulting associate professor at the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation, and Infection, commented, "More than 90 percent of all noncommunicable diseases of aging are associated with chronic inflammation."


According to Furman, there have been more than 1,000 papers that have indicated that chronic inflammation plays a role in the onset of many types of cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as degenerative conditions like Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and osteoarthritis.

“It’s also well-known that caffeine intake is associated with longevity. Many studies have shown this association. We’ve found a possible reason for why this may be so," Furman noted.

To conduct their research, the team led a multi-pronged study to best reach a conclusion. To begin, they took blood samples from two separate groups of people. Samples were taken from people in their 20s, and another set of samples were taken from people over the age of 60. What the team found was that the older study participants showcased a much higher activity level of a gene that is associated with the production of a specific circulating inflammatory protein, called IL-1-beta.

Within the group of older participants, the team also discovered another interesting detail: in participants who reported drinking more coffee, the gene seemed to actually be less active. Conversely, people who drank less coffee seemed to have much more activity in regards to the inflammatory protein-producing gene. (Related: Keep up with the latest natural health cures at

The team also noted that those over 60 who reported drinking less coffee were more likely to have high blood pressure, stiff arteries, and higher amounts of the inflammatory IL-1-beta protein circulating around in their blood.

To ensure that this protein was indeed a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the researchers then conducted an animal study. They found that injecting mice with the IL-1-beta protein resulted in massive, systemic inflammation and high blood pressure. While animal testing is not something to be condoned, the findings do suggest that this protein does have quite harmful effects.

In order to get a better picture of this most unusual finding, the team went back to the lab and loaded up human immune cells with the inflammatory protein. Then, they added caffeine into the mix and observed. It was then that the researchers discovered that caffeine mitigated the harmful effects of the protein. (RELATED: See more news about nutritional medicine at

One of the study's senior authors, Mark Davis, PhD, a professor of microbiology and immunology and the director of the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation, and Infection, commented, "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.”

Davis also notes that finding a beverage people actually want to drink could actually have a meaningful benefit came as quite a surprise to the entire research team.


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