12 January - 20 June 2016

Study finds caffeine consumption may help prevent age-related inflammation

A study by researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine and published in Nature Medicine indicates that caffeine may be able to play a role in reducing chronic inflammation in older adults.

A study by researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine and published in Nature Medicine indicates that caffeine may be able to play a role in reducing chronic inflammation in older adults.

Chronic inflammation has been associated with many age-related diseases. Interleukin-1β (IL-1β) is an inflammatory protein whose presence in elevated concentrations has been linked to increased risk of a number of diseases including cardiovascular and degenerative diseases. Inflammasomes are intracellular structures, often triggered by pathogens or cellular stress that have been found to be a source of IL-1β. The authors of the current study, Furman et al, wanted to investigate if inflammasomes are implicated in the human aging process and if they contribute to age-related diseases. Using data from the Stanford-Ellison longitudinal cohort, including blood sample and gene expression data and medical and family histories for over 100 participants over a period of five years, Furman et al investigated the levels of genes in older and younger participants to see if they could find any which might relate to the aging process. Two clusters of genes were found to be related to inflammasome activity and involved in the production of IL-1β, which appeared to be more active in older adults.

They discovered that older adults could be classified into one of two groups, those with high activation (Inflammasome module high – IMH) or with low activation (Inflammasome module low – IML) of these gene clusters.  When medical and family history was examined, Furman et al. found that those in the IMH group tended to have higher blood pressure and stiffer arteries compared to those in the IML group. Those participants in the IML group were also eight times as likely to have had a family member live to 90 or older compared to the IMH group, while those in the IMH group showed significantly higher levels of circulating cysteine, an important marker of oxidative stress, than those in the IML group.

Furman et al. also examined data from a survey regarding consumption of sources of caffeine which had been completed by the participants. They also compared the levels of caffeine and caffeine-derived metabolites (including theophylline and theobromine found in tea and chocolate respectively) in the participant’s blood. Taken together, Furman et al. found that when adjusted for confounding factors, the IML group “exhibited significantly elevated levels of these [caffeine] metabolites” compared to the IMH group. This finding prompted the researchers to test the effect of caffeine and its metabolites ‘in vitro’ on immune cells. They discovered it significantly inhibited IL-1β secretion indicating that caffeine impairs inflammasome activity.

In conclusion, the authors report that “moderate coffee consumption may suppress systemic inflammation that is caused by inflammasome activation” and notes that this may account for previous studies finding a correlation between coffee consumption and decreased mortality.

RSSL’s Functional Ingredients Laboratory can quantify caffeine in foods and beverages.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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