On a typical morning, you can usually find me sitting at my desk, catching up on all the latest health news, and drinking a hot cup o’ joe. In fact, that’s exactly how I came across this important new study about the health benefits of coffee.
And this isn’t just another clinical trial showing how coffee can boost cardiovascular health, improve brain function, or prevent chronic disease.
Instead, these researchers went on the hunt to discover coffee’s all-important mechanism of action. That is, exactly how does it work to protect the heart and other organs—especially as we age?
The study built on previous work conducted by scientists in Germany, showing that a common, age-related heart defect can be corrected by giving mice caffeine.
The scientists found that caffeine enhances the function of cells that line blood vessels and also protects them from damage. It does this by rapidly entering the cells and stoking the fires of the mitochondria.
I’ve written before about the critical role of cellular mitochondria. They’re like hearths, burning fuel in the form of glucose, and then combining that fuel with oxygen to generate energy and water for your cells.
This process, known as cellular hydration, is key for optimal cellular function. Meaning that coffee’s long-term benefits for your brain, heart, and GI tract can be explained by its ability to help mitochondria generate energy for your cells.
The German researchers’ new study looked at caffeine’s role in the mitochondrial process of burning glucose to make energy.1 This process, known as mitochondrial respiration, slows down as we age.
The researchers gave 22-month-old mice the human equivalent of four to five cups of coffee a day in their drinking water over a period of 10 days.
They then measured the mice’s mitochondrial respiration, and discovered it had increased to the levels found in six-month-old animals. In human terms, that would be the equivalent of shaving decades off your age.
Why coffee is the real energy drink
This research shows that the caffeine in coffee can improve how your cells produce energy, allowing them to function more efficiently. And that provides vital protection against disease and other factors of aging.
Caffeine’s mitochondrial effects also explain the amazing short-term benefits of drinking coffee—including mental alertness, expanded breath and respiration, improved digestion and metabolism, and a general feeling of vitality.
In other words, coffee is a real, natural energy booster—unlike artificial, sugar-laden “energy” bars and drinks.
The study also provides more evidence that drinking coffee is hydrating—contrary to popular medical myth—considering that it actually hydrates you at the cellular level.
Of course, these and many other studies show that coffee’s benefits are most apparent when you drink three to five cups a day. But, as I mentioned on page 3, moderation is key.
Everyone metabolizes caffeine differently. So if you have heartburn, heart palpitations, irritability, or insomnia after drinking coffee, try cutting back your consumption rather than switching to decaf, which offers no real health benefits.
You’ll still get plenty of health benefits, even if you only have a cup or two of joe during your morning coffee break.
So make this the best part of waking up…today and every day.
1“CDKN1B/p27 is localized in mitochondria and improves respiration-dependent processes in the cardiovascular system—New mode of action for caffeine.” PLoS Biol 16(6): e2004408.