Written by Keshav Suresh
Coffee plays so many roles in society today - being the second most traded commodity in the world (only second to gasoline), over 80% of Americans consume this omnipresent beverage for a plethora of reasons . It’s used as a wake-me-up in the morning, as a social drink, and as a productivity boost for those late-night study sessions that we all know about. But new research done by Stanford University may give us a new reason to drink coffee - as a way to promote longevity in humans.
Aging is a concept that has intrigued and eluded scientists forever; how can we prolong our mortal timespan? While there have been some insights into promoting human longevity, the process of aging remains mostly unknown. What we do know, however, is that it is impossible to label aging as a single process, but it is a cumulation of a series of changes in the body- the most important being inflammation, which is the body’s response to some harmful stimuli. 90% of aging related disorders are a direct cause of inflammation of some part of the body . As people age, nucleic acids break down over time, and the products from the breakdown are dangerous, which triggers the inflammatory response in our body. The extended exposure to these molecules lead to chronic inflammation, in which many cells in the area die or are rendered useless . Chronic inflammation has been shown to lead directly to Parkinson’s Disease, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, and even depression- all of which affect the elderly more. Looking at 1L-1-beta, a specific gene that heavily promotes inflammation, scientists categorized people into either having a high activation or low activation of the gene. It was found that the group with high activation, people were older, and at higher risk for cardiovascular diseases and more harmful molecules in the body .
While there has been research looking to stop all these processes, it has been found that as coffee is broken down in the body, caffeine and its metabolic products actually counteract this inflammatory response caused by the nucleic acids. In another study comparing the relationship between coffee drinkers and Parkinson’s disease in 673 individuals, it was found that people who reported being heavy coffee drinkers actually had either mild Parkinson’s disease or experienced a later onset of the disease . One of the root causes for Parkinson’s is an inflammation reaction which leads to the loss of dopamine in the brain. It appears as if the caffeine from heavy coffee drinkers actually reduced the severity of this inflammatory reaction and thereby leading to the mild and later development of symptoms. This is the same kind of inflammation also associated with aging. Another study done placed a coffee extract in egg samples and measured the amount of protein denaturation. The egg samples with higher concentrations of coffee extract showed less protein denaturation, which further adds to its characterization as a substance that helps the body . One possible explanation for this phenomenon is the presence of polyphenols in coffee, which is a known antioxidant.
While these studies are all just speculative and there is no actual evidence relating coffee to anti-aging, do we really need another excuse for another cup?
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3)"What Is an Inflammation?" National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 07 Jan. 2015. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.
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