Do We Have to Give Up Our Morning Ritual?

If you pay attention to health news, you have probably read plenty of contradictory claims about coffee. It’s enough to make you wonder what’s really going on with this beloved beverage.

If you’re worried about your morning routine contributing to premature aging, fear not: we’re here to break down the link between coffee and the aging process. We’ll even start with some good news: consuming coffee can help fight aging. In fact, a cup or two in the morning can fight inflammation and oxidative stress.

That said, there are some circumstances in which you may want to cut back on the java. Here’s what science says about coffee’s role in your wellness journey.

The Link Between Coffee and Telomeres

Telomeres are the primary way to determine a person’s cellular age. These telomeres act as protective caps on the ends of each strand of DNA. The longer your telomeres are, the less your cells have aged. As it happens, drinking coffee may keep your telomeres healthy and long.

In 2015, a research team lead by J.J. Liu examined data from more than 4,700 female nurses to see whether there was any association between coffee consumption and telomere length. “We found that higher coffee consumption is associated with longer telomeres among female nurses,” the researchers write in their conclusion. This study has since opened the door to more research on coffee and telomere length.

If you believe that you can substitute any caffeinated beverage and get the same result, think again. BYU research Larry A. Tucker analyzed both caffeine and coffee consumption in more than 5,800 adults and found that while coffee may lengthen telomeres, caffeine alone can shorten them.

Coffee, Inflammation and Aging

Inflammation is one of the most prevalent causes of aging and low-level chronic inflammation may increase the risk of developing a number of health problems, from diabetes to heart disease. As such, it’s important to look for ways to reduce inflammation in your daily life. Perhaps one of the most delightful ways to do this is to drink coffee.

Christa Sgobba, a health writer at Men’s Health, reports on a study out of Stanford University that examines the relationship between coffee and inflammation, particularly among people in their 60s. Toward the end of the lengthy study, the researchers decided to try something extraordinary.

“They added inflammation-causing compounds to human immune cells in the lab, and then added caffeine into the mix, too,” Sgobba writes, “They discovered that caffeine prevented those compounds from producing their inflammatory effects.”

David Furman, the study’s author and consulting associate professor at the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection at Stanford, notes that the more coffee the participants drank, the greater the anti-inflammatory effects. “The more caffeine people consumed, the more protected they were against a chronic state of inflammation,” Furman says. “There was no boundary, apparently.”

One of the senior authors of the study, Mark Davis, notes that this highlights how coffee fights inflammation as well as its potential impact on how long we live.

“What we’ve shown is a correlation between caffeine consumption and longevity,” Davis writes in a statement. “And we’ve shown more rigorously, in laboratory tests, a very plausible mechanism for why this might be so.”

While this study is relatively new and more tests need to be done, it reflects the promise of coffee as an anti-aging beverage.

Coffee Prevents Oxidative Stress

Alongside inflammation, a process known as oxidative stress is one of the other major forces behind aging at the cellular level. In news sure to delight java fans, coffee has been shown to help fight free radicals and the oxidative stress they bring.

Dr. Yella Hewings-Martin recently wrote an article about this phenomenon for Medical News Today. She says that coffee contains “antioxidant substances that help to mop up free radicals in our cells and activate DNA repair, as well as anti-mutagen molecules that stop cancer-causing DNA mutations from occurring.”

Antioxidants are regularly touted as one of the best weapons against free radicals and oxidative stress, and according to Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, coffee is the biggest source of these healthy antioxidants. “Interestingly, coffee contains very large amounts of several powerful antioxidants,” she writes. “These include hydrocinnamic acids and polyphenols, to name a few. Hydrocinnamic acids are very effective at neutralizing free radicals and preventing oxidative stress.”

Java Drinkers Have Lower Risks

By safeguarding telomeres, reducing inflammation and fighting free radicals, coffee can help you slow down the signs of aging. This increase in health also correlates with a decrease in risks for some of the most common age-related diseases.

Alice Park at Time points to the fact that there’s ample research showing coffee’s benefits. “There’s a strong case for the health benefits of coffee,” Park writes. “Studies have recently shown that regular java drinkers have a lower risk of diabetes, fewer strokes and heart problems and lower rates of certain cancers. All of that may help explain why coffee drinkers also tend to live longer than people who don’t drink the brew.”

Another problem that many people face during aging is macular degeneration, which is the most common reason that senior citizens lose their sight. Drinking a cup of joe every day could help prevent this problem. Sylvia Booth Hubbardof the Macular Degeneration Association recommends adding coffee to a healthy routine to keep your eyes healthy.

Caffeine Considerations: Don’t Overindulge With Coffee

While coffee can be an important part of a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to take a few cons into consideration. Coffee can only help you if it doesn’t interrupt your ability to get good sleep. After all, being sleep deprived can accelerate aging.

Due to coffee’s caffeine content, drinking it too late can keep you up at night. Melissa Chuat the Huffington Post reports on recent research that says those who want good sleep should stop consuming caffeine at least six hours before bed. Why such a long buffer? Because caffeine has physiological effects that are often imperceptible to us.

What’s the big deal about missing an hour or so of sleep? It can negatively impact how we age. Journalist Margaret Jennings reports on a study that found that even one sleepless night can have adverse effects. The effects are especially notable in older people. “And as we age, it is even more important that we recharge and recover once we lay our head down,” Jennings writes.

As long as you stop drinking coffee or switch to decaf six hours before bedtime, you can keep your coffee habit without sacrificing your health.

Making Coffee a Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

While you should never rely on coffee alone to fuel your journey to health, it can be a great part of your routine. With a healthy diet, appropriate supplements and regular exercise, your morning java can act as a tool to both perk you up and help you age gracefully.

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