12 January - 20 June 2016

Coffee consumption associated with longer telomere length

Coffee contains many antioxidants including caffeine, chlorogenic acid, diterpenes, melanoidins and polyphenols. Previous research has found that coffee and its component compounds can protect against DNA damage although caffeine has been found to actually inhibit DNA repair. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition has investigated whether varying coffee or caffeine consumption levels are associated with telomere length, a marker of aging.

Coffee contains many antioxidants including caffeine, chlorogenic acid, diterpenes, melanoidins and polyphenols.  Previous research has found that coffee and its component compounds can protect against DNA damage although caffeine has been found to actually inhibit DNA repair. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition has investigated whether varying coffee or caffeine consumption levels are associated with telomere length, a marker of aging.  Oxidative stress can accelerate their shortening.  Shortened telomeres have been associated with lower life expectancy and high risk of age-relate diseases. 

De Vivo et al. analysed data from 4780 participants involved in the Nurses’ Health Study who had completed food frequency questionnaires and had telomere length measurements.  Using PCR the scientists measured telomere length in genomic DNA extracted from white blood cells.  Food frequency questionnaires were used to record coffee consumption and caffeine consumption from all dietary sources.  Physical activity levels, smoking, and alcohol consumption were also recorded.  De Vivo et al. also derived an Alternate Mediterranean Diet score for the participants based on intake of 9 dietary components: vegetables (excluding potatoes), fruits, nuts, whole grains, legumes, fishes, and monounsaturated to saturated fatty acids ratio, red and processed meats and alcohol. 

The scientists report that the women who consumed more coffee also smoked more, consumed more alcohol, had higher trans-fat consumption, higher Alternative Mediterranean Diet Score and lower BMI.  Older age was associated with shorter telomeres with these older women having higher trans-fat consumption, a higher Alternate Mediterranean Diet Score and smoking more.  Alcohol consumption, BMI and physical activity was not significantly associated with telomere length.

The team then examined total coffee consumption and telomere length and found that after adjusting for confounding factors, compared with non-coffee drinkers, those who drank 2 to <3 and ≥ 3 cups of coffee per day, had 1.29 and 1.35 times respectively the odds of having median telomere length.  The researchers also compare caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee consumption and telomere length.  A significant linear association with longer telomeres was found for higher caffeinated consumption although they found no association for decaffeinated coffee.  The scientists also investigated whether caffeine consumption from all dietary sources was associated with telomere length and after taking into confounding factors found that the association was no longer significant. 

De Vivo et al. discuss the mechanism behind coffee consumption and telomere length, noting that coffee consumption has been found in previous research to reduce spontaneous DNA strand breaks and be protective against chemical-induced DNA damage and oxidative damage. The researchers also discuss why the results were different for decaffeinated coffee, noting that caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee may have different antioxidant concentrations, as the decaffeinated process not only lowers caffeine concentrations but also lowers other antioxidants and polyphenols.  However, their results suggest that compounds in coffee other than caffeine may be responsible for the association between coffee consumption and telomere length, although caffeine can’t be ruled out. In conclusion the study reiterates its findings and suggest “observational and randomised clinical studies that examine other populations or obtain repeated measurement of telomere length for each participant will further clarify the shape of the dose-response curve for coffee consumption and telomere length.”

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