There are plenty of wives tales perpetuated about coffee and its negative impact on overall health. That it will stain your teeth, give you a heart attack, or stunt your growth (if you’re a young java-fiend) are three of the more popular myths. And why wouldn’t it? Caffeine is a drug, after all…or so we’ve been told.
What’s interesting about a good wives tale is the way it defines a rule based on a random assortment of known exceptions. For instance, excessive caffeine use is problematic for someone with a pre-existing heart condition, but it is by no means causal. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, healthy adults can safely consume 400 mg of caffeine daily.
That is equivalent to four cups of coffee – much more than what is needed to enjoy the lesser known health benefits of that magic morning elixir. Coffee, and more specifically caffeine, has been shown to aid in weight management, alertness, and liver and colon function, for example.
However, findings from this study out of Tokyo’s Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology suggest your breakfast blend is doing more than just priming you for a long day. It’s actually bolstering overall health and longevity as well.
According to the study, coffee is “an effective beverage for healthful aging” especially for individuals with known cardiovascular disease or mild cognitive impairment. Researchers also found that “habitual coffee intake reduces the all-cause mortality in Japanese and several other population groups” as well as death from heart attack or stroke.
So, how does that work?
The upside of coffee is generally attributed to its antioxidant and antiradical activity. But when it comes to fighting age related disease, caffeine is to coffee as Thor’s hammer is to…well, Thor.
The study cites the way caffeine inhibits the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) – a protein kinase that regulates protein synthesis and cell growth in response to growth factors, nutrients, energy levels, and stress (Marin et al., 2011). This prolongs the life span of fission yeast, which initiates mating, meiosis, and sporulation.
In other words, as we age our mTOR goes into energy saver mode and slows cell rejuvenation and muscle growth. Caffeine stops mTOR from flipping that switch, affording cells the energy to multiply! At least that is the theory.
It’s important to note, the Japanese research team, while confident, does not offer any conclusive evidence regarding coffee and mTOR. Rather, the team merely suggests continued study of the relationship could be transformative for age-related medicine.
For the trial, researchers tested effects of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee on lab mice. Specific analyses considered CO2 excretion and the respiration exchange ratio, as well as biochemical and biomolecular markers. Ultimately, both regular and decaf helped reduce fatty acid levels and increased ARP levels in the liver. These results suggest that habitual coffee consumption can in fact extend one’s lifespan and improve overall health.
To learn about other helpful longevity tips and findings, check out our other blogs.