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Stanford boffins find 'correlation between caffeine consumption and longevity'

Make a cup of tea - or a mocha - before you read this if you want a long and happy life

A cup of tea, coffee or even a mocha could extend your life, new research shows.

The Stanford University research published in the journal Nature reveals how a cuppa can directly combat underlying chronic inflammatory processes, particularly in older people.

Inflammation is a critical process which helps the body fight infection, but is also linked to diseases including cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. More than 90 per cent of noncommunicable diseases linked to ageing are associated with chronic inflammation.

The team of 20 researchers found the by-products of nucleic acids known as metabolites are drivers of chronic inflammation and therefore mortality, but could be countered in part by substances found within caffeine.

Director of the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection and study author Professor Mark Davis says the link between a reduction in inflammation and caffeine is not causal.

“We didn’t give some of the mice coffee and the others decaf," Davis says.

"What we’ve shown is a correlation between caffeine consumption and longevity. And we’ve shown more rigorously, in laboratory tests, a very plausible mechanism for why this might be so.”

“Our findings show that an underlying inflammatory process, which is associated with ageing, is not only driving cardiovascular disease but is, in turn, driven by molecular events that we may be able to target and combat."

The research team tapped into Stanford's decade-long study into the immunology of ageing which analysed blood samples from a group of participants aged 20 years to 30 years, plus another group aged over 60.

The study looked at the gene clusters known to be associated with ageing and inflammation and found that "Those in whom it [the clusters] was relatively quiescent tended to drink more caffeinated beverages."

It's not just caffeine that seems to help: a substance called theophylline found in tea and the compound theobromine found in chocolate also seem to help.

The research doesn't say drinking coffee alone is going to help you achieve a ripe old age: there's all sorts of stuff in it about different genes and proteins in the immune system. But the authors feel they're close to understanding how the stuff in coffee, tea and chocolate interact with other molecules in the body and why those substances help to fight inflammation and therefore ageing.

“That something many people drink — and actually like to drink — might have a direct benefit came as a surprise to us,” Davis says. ®

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