Good news: Coffee will stunt your growth, just like your mother predicted! Better news: All that growth-stunting could actually be good for you because the stunting it’s doing is in your inflammation pathways. That’s according to a new study out of Stanford University which found that drinking more caffeine could actually fight the effects of aging, keeping you younger and healthier for longer.
According to Time, one of the biggest factors in age-related disorders is inflammation. What the researchers found, when they looked at older adults who weren’t suffering from one life-threatening illness or another, was that this group of people did something other groups didn’t: they drank caffeine.
“The more caffeine people consumed, the more protected they were against a chronic state of inflammation,” says study author David Furman, consulting associate professor at the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection at Stanford University. “There was no boundary, apparently.”
In order to understand this, we also have to consider how we think about “age-related disorders.” According to the researchers, most disorders of aging — whether they be Alzheimer’s or hypertension — aren’t actually related to age at all. Instead they’re related to a state of chronic inflammation, something that leads to medical problems as we age and our bodies begin to control inflammation less effectively than they might have in our youth.
Coffee drinkers, though — we’re going to just go ahead and assume that the researchers aren’t suggesting you drink Mountain Dew to stay healthy — had some of the lowest activity in the gene inflammation pathways. And of the 100 people the researchers studied (both young and old), the ones who drank five cups or more of coffee a day had the least amount of activity in the inflammatory pathways. The theory? Coffee turns this inflammatory pathway off, making it harder for all those illnesses that require access to get at you.
Don’t go drowning yourself in espressos just yet, though. The researchers also point out that some inflammation is necessary to fight off infections and relieve your body of toxins. But we’re getting closer and closer than ever to discovering how and why inflammation occurs and how to handle it before, as Time puts it, things begin spiraling out of control.
“Clearly in aging something is breaking down, and we become less effective at managing this inflammation,” says Mark Davis, director of the Stanford institute. “But now in this paper, we identify a particular pathway that was not associated with inflammation before. We are able to point, with a much higher resolution picture, at aging and the things that should be markers for inflammation.”
Now if you’ll excuse the rest of us, we’ll be over here by the Keurig, ignoring all that advice about how to start our days without coffee and laughing about how much longer we’re all going to live (barring a nuclear disaster, in which case, at least we’ll have energy to run!).