Aging and Caffeine: What Older Adults Should Know
Scientists have debated caffeine’s health impacts for years. In the past, the medical community advised limiting caffeine intake because they believed it negatively impacted overall health. Then, research came along that seemed to indicate coffee consumption—drinking fully caffeinated portions in moderate amounts—resulted in lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.
The conflicting reports left many of us unsure of what to believe. We thought it might help if we shared some of the most recent studies about aging and caffeine. You can review this information with your primary care physician to see what additional advice they might have to offer.
What Researchers Say About Aging, Health, and Caffeine
Here’s what you should consider when it comes to caffeine and aging well:
- Fight chronic inflammation: In recent years, we’ve learned more about inflammation and the role it plays in the development of chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and asthma. Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine say people who drink more caffeinated beverages have lower rates of inflammation. Scientists believe caffeine prohibits two particular gene clusters associated with inflammation production. By reducing inflammation, we may be able to prevent these types of diseases and live longer, healthier lives.
- Protect against Alzheimer’s disease: A growing amount of research shows that moderate coffee consumption (defined as three cups per day) helps protect cognitive health. When compared with people who consume low or high amounts of coffee, the risk for dementia is reduced by as much as 65 percent for moderate coffee drinkers.
- Heart health and caffeine: This is, unfortunately, an area where there is no clear agreement. According to the American Heart Association, studies are inconclusive about whether or not caffeine increases the risk for heart disease. Some newer research—including study results presented at the American Heart Association’s 2017 Scientific Sessions—seems to indicate caffeine may help ward off cardiac-related illnesses. However, it is not yet considered to be conclusive evidence.
What is the Source of the Caffeine?
Our final suggestion is to be mindful of the source of caffeine you are consuming. Is it coming from coffee or tea? Or is it from a source like soda or energy drinks? The latter two often come with additional health risks that can override any benefits caffeine might offer.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 12-ounce can of soda averages 39 grams of sugar. That equates to more than 9 teaspoons of sugar. The American Heart Association says that adult men should limit their daily sugar consumption to no more than 9 teaspoons per day, and women to just 6. Sugar intake that exceeds those guidelines puts people at risk for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Energy drinks are promoted as an easy way to improve alertness and physical endurance. People of all ages, including teens, often consume them in large quantities. But it’s important to know that one 24-ounce energy drink contains as much caffeine as four to five cups of coffee. People who consume more than one energy drink in a day may encounter side effects such as profuse sweating, heart palpitations, digestive issues, and problems with heart rhythm.
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