Your morning cup of coffee may be just what the doctor ordered. Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine found caffeine to lower inflammation which has long been associated with heart disease. Previous studies have reported coffee drinkers tend to live longer than non coffee drinkers and this may explain why.
To begin, scientists looked at a protein called, IL-1-beta. In study participants who had higher levels of this inflammatory agent, they found an increased risk of high blood pressure and stiff arteries compared to those who had lower levels of IL – 1- beta.
Then researchers injected mice with IL-1-beta to see what it could do, and found blood pressure to rise as well as inflammation.
The scientists then looked at the genes that encode IL-1-beta and found less activation of these genes in those who drank caffeinated drinks.
Then the researchers took human cells in a laboratory setting and used agents to trigger inflammation, finding them to produce more IL-1-beta. They then tested to see if caffeine subdued the inflammation and it did.
Therefore they confirmed the IL-1-beta protein was inflammatory, those who drank coffee activated the genes less, and caffeine reduced inflammation.
The lead researcher was Dr. David Furman and the study was published online Jan. 16 in Nature Medicine.
Now the next question is: If caffeine is healthy for the heart, does this mean caffeine drinks and caffeinated foods are healthy? Unfortunately this study does not dive into the foods or food products that offer high caffeine alternatives. We’ve seen previous research discussing caffeinated coffee to have health benefits but decaf, or soda with caffeine does not.
And energy drinks have long been associated with increase heart attack risk, especially abnormal heart rhythms. Last year a 19 year old died after drinking three and a half cans of Monster Energy Drink within 24 hours of having a heart attack.
One explanation for why energy drinks may not offer the same caffeinated health benefits is the drink is imbibed quickly rather than a slow sip from a hot cup of coffee. Another reason could be there are ingredients in the caffeine drink that negates its beneficial effects.
For now, we can take this promising news, consider maintaining our daily cup of Joe and await more research to tell us why coffee seems to be the only drink getting all the glory. Soda pop and energy drinks may till need to stay on the shelves.
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Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician