LONDON, Jan 17L The caffeine in your morning cup of joe may do more than jolt you awake — it may also help dampen the type of inflammation that’s linked to heart disease risk factors, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that an inflammatory mechanism was dialed up in certain older adults, but not others. When it was highly activated, people often had high blood pressure and stiff arteries.
But in lab experiments, there was evidence that caffeine blocked this inflammatory process.
No one, however, is saying that morning cup of coffee is a magic bullet against aging.
Still, the findings might help explain why past studies have linked higher caffeine intake to a longer life, said lead researcher David Furman, of Stanford University School of Medicine.
The human body has “probably hundreds of pathways” that contribute to chronic inflammation and various diseases, according to Furman.
“We identified one of them,” he said.
Furman added that substances other than caffeine might influence the inflammatory process. He pointed to the well-known example of omega-3 fatty acids (nutrients commonly found in fatty fish), which can ease inflammation.
A researcher who wasn’t involved in the study also cautioned against making too much of the caffeine finding.
What’s “really important” is that the study points to some molecular “targets” for new treatments to fight chronic inflammation, said Gabrielle Fredman.
Fredman is an assistant professor at Albany Medical College, in Albany, N.Y., and a grantee of the American Federation for Aging Research.
Researchers have long believed that lasting, low-grade inflammation contributes to most age-related chronic diseases — including heart disease, arthritis, dementia and many cancers.
Fredman noted that existing anti-inflammatory drugs have side effects, including immune system suppression — which aren’t desirable in older adults.
So, she said, scientists are trying to develop treatments that target specific culprits in the chronic inflammation process.
Whether caffeine could be one of those treatments is unclear.
“There’s some suggestion in this study that moderate caffeine might be enough to quell some of this inflammation,” Fredman said.