The participants were aged between 20-30 or older than 60 and were monitored each year with blood tests, surveys and analysis of their medical histories.

Here, the scientists compared blood samples from the two age groups to identify which genes were more activated with old age. Two clusters of genes were seen as particularly interesting – activated in elderly participants, they were associated with the production of a circulating inflammatory protein called IL-1-beta.

caffeine health
Coffee could potentially help prevent inflammation and cardiovascular diseaseEyesWideOpen / Getty Images

For some of these older adults, these genes were much more activated than for others. This led to an important production of the inflammatory protein and put these individuals at risk of having high blood pressure and stiff arteries – and thus of developing cardiovascular diseases.

Experiments with mice further confirmed this link, since increased IL-1-beta production in the animals triggered massive systemic inflammation, high blood pressure and renal pressure.

A link with caffeine

Past studies have shown that coffee drinkers live longer and are less prone to cardiovascular problems than non-coffee drinkers. In this research, the scientists uncovered a connection between the age-related inflammatory process and people’s caffeine consumption, which may explain why that is.

Incubating immune cells with caffeine, the researchers indeed found that caffeine’s own metabolites countered the action of the circulating inflammatory proteins. Caffeine therefore appeared to prevent cardiovascular disease and to help people live longer.

“That something many people drink – and actually like to drink – might have a direct benefit came as a surprise to us,” said lead author Mark Davis. “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.” – IBTimes