If you want to extend your lifespan, there are a few simple things you already know you should do – eat healthy, exercise regularly, and avoid cigarettes and other hazards. But what about drugs that might be able to add years to your life?
No drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the specific purpose of reversing aging or enhancing longevity. However, there is a drug that you can obtain over the counter that may be more effective than any prescription drug at stimulating a longer life. It’s called caffeine.
That’s right, the caffeine fix that you get with your morning coffee or afternoon tea may be helping your body rejuvenate itself at the cellular level. Caffeine extends lifespan in part by promoting a process known as autophagy, the self-cleansing of cells.
Science Refutes Conventional
Wisdom on Caffeine
You may have heard that caffeine is bad for you. Yes, it’s true that getting too much caffeine can be unhealthy, especially for people with high blood pressure. But like much conventional wisdom (such as the now discredited “milk does a body good” claim; see December 2014 Independent Living), the idea that “caffeine free” or “decaffeinated” beverages are inherently healthier than caffeinated drinks is false.
A recent study (“Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality”) found that coffee drinkers experience up to 10% lower death rates. Among the causes of death known to be deterred by coffee consumption is type 2 diabetes. Drink caffeinated coffee regularly and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes!
A 2012 paper by University of Washington scholars (“Caffeine Extends Life Span, Improves Healthspan, and Delays Age-associated Pathology in Caenorhabditis Elegans”) identified specific mechanisms by which caffeine improves longevity. According to the researchers, a large body of evidence from both human and animal studies suggests that caffeine may target and protect longevity pathways in the body.
Give Your Brain a Caffeine Fix
The benefits of caffeine extend to mental functioning. Caffeine has been shown to stimulate activity in the frontal lobes of the brain. In 2005, a team of Austrian scientists conducted a series of experiments showing that drinking two cups of coffee daily can improve short-term memory.
Caffeine may help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s. One study found that those who drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages regularly can reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 60%. It is believed that caffeine helps prevent nerves in the brain from deteriorating.
Avoid Bad Forms of Caffeine
Now, some notes of caution. Caffeine is a potentially addictive stimulant. If you are a heart patient, your doctor may recommend against caffeine consumption. People who struggle with insomnia should be wary of caffeine consumption. You should avoid caffeine within 5 hours of going to bed, so it does not disrupt your sleep.
Try to avoid colas and other caffeinated soft drinks. Sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners don’t do your body good. Some “diet” soft drinks are laden with chemicals that are just as bad – or worse – for you as what’s in high-calorie, sugary drinks.
That said, coffee is a good way to get a periodic caffeine boost. Another good way is with tea. Loaded with antioxidants, teas, especially green tea, can help protect brain cells from damage.
A cup of coffee in the morning and an afternoon tea won’t cause most people to become over-caffeinated. Two quality caffeinated beverages daily may help you hang on to your memories and ultimately live longer.