Upfront

The caffeinated fountain of youth

A recent study by School of Medicine researchers implicates an inflammatory process found in older adults in cardiovascular disease, but the process is dampened among those who drink more caffeinated beverages.

“More than 90 percent of all non­communicable diseases of aging are associated with chronic inflammation,” including cancers, dementias and cardio­vascular disease, says lead author David Furman, PhD, consulting associate professor at the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection.

The study, published in February 2017 in Nature Medicine, showed that two clusters of genes whose activity is associated with the inflammatory protein IL-1-beta are more active in older people. Those with high activity in one or both clusters were more likely to have high blood pressure, increased activity of possibly damaging molecules called free radicals and several breakdown products of nucleic acids that can be produced by free-​radical action; a follow-up study revealed they were more likely to have stiff arteries.

Those with low cluster activity were eight times more likely to report having a family member who lived to age 90. They also tended to drink more caffeinated beverages. The researchers verified that their blood contained more caffeine and a number of its breakdown products, which, they showed in a lab experiment, prevented the inflammatory action of the nucleic-acid breakdown products.

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