Can Coffee Help Reverse Aging?
Coffee can reduce DNA Damage but beware sleep disruption
Doug: Hey Molly, are we ready to leave for the hike yet?
Molly: Sorry Doug, give me 2 minutes, I need to prepare my coffee. You know I need my morning coffee..
Doug: Molly, I wonder if you drink too much coffee. Isn’t that bad for you?
Molly: Oh no! In fact caffeine can have a ton of benefits. I’ll die defending caffeine.
Doug: Sounds like an addict to me!
Molly: Okay, well yes I was exaggerating. Of course, there are some downsides to too much coffee, but it does indeed have benefits. Coffee can..
Doug: Why don’t you drink up your superfood coffee first and then you can lecture me in the car, huh?
Driving to the hike..
Molly: Ready now, Doug? Ready for your mind to be blown by the benefits of coffee?
Molly: First, let’s touch upon aging - recall how DNA damage is linked to accelerated rates of aging? Studies have shown that consumption of dark roast coffee can decrease DNA damage in humans1, which means it can slow down aging2. Further, coffee consumption is positively associated with longer telomere length3, which is another biomarker for aging (telomeres shorten with DNA damage).
Doug: Aha, the telomuhs (telomeres) strike again! Ha, so have these studies been done on healthy adults as well or is it that people with poor health benefit from coffee intake?
Molly: That is a great question, Doug. Science can get murky this way. The studies have in fact been done on healthy adults. One such study4 showed that consumption of ~500ml of coffee a day for a month reduced DNA damage in white blood cells by 23% in healthy adults. Also, it’s possible that coffee (caffeinated and decaffeinated) can induce autophagy!5 6(body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells)
Doug: Interesting. In my mind coffee has been associated as a stimulant and I never thought it could have longevity benefits.
Molly: Yeah, it’s pretty cool that I can drink coffee to feel focused and awake and also get the benefits of reduced DNA damage! There is another benefit to coffee that gets me excited. You know how concerned I am about rising obesity rates, right? In the United States, about 43% of the population is obese and 74% is considered overweight. That’s terrifying and sad at the same time. I hope I can help people eat clean, exercise more and in general gain better awareness of their health through Live Longer World.
Doug: Isn’t it also true that coffee acts as an appetite suppressant and hence may help people eat less which contributes to fat loss?
Molly: When it comes to coffee acting as an appetite suppressant, I think most of the evidence is anecdotal10 and I can attest to it too. In any case, its impact on fat loss by reducing the storage of lipids on fat cells has been studied.
Doug: Alright, coffee to the rescue if I’m trying to lose some body fat!
Doug: Molly, I’m getting tired. How do you seem to have all this energy?
*Molly shoots a wicked smile*
Doug: You’re going to attribute it to coffee, aren’t you?!
Molly: Indeed - credit where credit is due! Coffee is known to boost athletic performance - endurance11, high-intensity12 and resistance training13! This is why you will find caffeine in some pre-workout supplements.
Doug: Ha, yes I’ve seen that before! But can’t it make you jittery too?
Molly: That’s mostly if you are consuming high doses of it, but yes some people don’t respond too well to coffee. Don’t get me wrong, there are of course some downsides to too much coffee. For example, it does spike blood pressure in the short-term, specially in those that are prone to hypertension. And some others also experience acid reflux with coffee.
Doug: I see, I guess too much of anything is not good. So how much coffee is okay to consume?
Molly: Wise, Doug. Typically, up to 400mg of caffeine per day14 is considered fine for healthy adults. (For pregnant and breastfeeding women, the recommendation is 200mg) A 12oz Starbucks dark roast has ~250mg caffeine, so you’re safe drinking about 1.5 cups of those in a day. But certain tea and dark chocolate also contain caffeine so watch out for that in conjunction with coffee use because I know you eat a lot of dark chocolate!
Molly: Doug, are you awake?
Doug: Not really Molly, but what’s up?
Molly: Sorry I’m kinda not sleepy so I’ve decided to bother you. In the spirit of science, I have to give you the complete story on coffee. You see, I messed up and drank another cup of coffee in the evening and now I’m having trouble falling asleep.
Doug: But that was a few hours ago, Molly. Shouldn’t you have processed it?
Molly: Well, the truth is that coffee typically has a half life of 5-7 hours which means that say about 6 hours later, there is still 50% of coffee in my brain which is blocking my sleep receptors and making it difficult for me to sleep.
Doug: Aha, now this is useful information to know!
Molly: Yes, timing and dosage of coffee certainly matter. And it goes a step further because different people metabolize coffee at different rates based on their genes. So while some people are able to drink coffee later in the day and metabolize it really fast, others could be slower at it and even a cup in the early afternoon may disrupt their sleep.
Doug: I never realized our genes could play a role in the processing of coffee too!
Molly: Yes, you can actually get tested for it and it’s something that is studied in a field called nutrigenomics. But on average, the half-life of coffee is ~6 hours.
Doug: Wow, this is fascinating. So, if I drink my last cup of coffee at noon, it will only get cleared from my brain by midnight!
Molly: That is correct.
Doug: But I know people who will claim to drink coffee later in the day and still be able to fall asleep. What is happening there?
Molly: Some of them may be faster than average metabolizers of coffee but most people overestimate their metabolization capabilities! The important thing to note is that while these people may be able to fall asleep, they are likely disrupting their deep sleep and sleep quality which is very important for cognitive health and the aging process. In fact, Matt Walker, the brilliant sleep scientist will say that we should have our last cup of coffee 14 hours before bed for it to not impact deep sleep and sleep quality.
Doug: Yawn. Well, I think I’ve learned a lot on coffee today and it might be time for me to get some deep sleep, Molly.
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The study showing that coffee induced autophagy was done on mice. I will be writing more on autophagy in a future post. For now, you might find it helpful to know that fasting induces autophagy which is very beneficial to promoting longevity.
Triglycerides are fats from the food we eat that are carried in the blood