Coffee is healthy, but not caffeine

Do you also feel hung over and shaky if you train after drinking a pre-workout formula that’s full of caffeine? It can’t be healthy we fear. And now we have a study to back up our suspicions. Larry Tucker, of Brigham Young University in the US, published it recently in Nutrition & Metabolism.

Tucker used data on 5,826 Americans that was gathered for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The participants listed what they had eaten during the past 24 hours and the researchers measured the length of the telomeres in the DNA of their white blood cells.

The longer the relative length of the telomeres in your DNA, the longer you still have to live.

The more caffeine the participants consumed, the shorter their telomeres Tucker discovered after filtering out the effect of age and other factors.

Coffee had an opposite effect on telomere length. The more coffee the participants drank, the longer their telomeres were.

Tucker’s study suggests that, for coffee drinkers, caffeine from sources other than coffee – such as energy drinks, supplements and cola – is just as unhealthy as it is for non-coffee drinkers. Tucker found that the telomeres in coffee drinkers were shorter the more caffeine they consumed.

“Caffeine intake is pervasive throughout much of the world,” writes Tucker. “It has been linked to a number of beneficial and detrimental health consequences. Unfortunately, much of the epidemiologic research on the effects of caffeine has focused on coffee intake, not caffeine.”

“The present study, which investigated the relationships between caffeine and coffee intakes and telomere length, shows that as caffeine intake increases, telomeres tend to be shorter in U.S. adults. On the other hand, this investigation indicates that as coffee intake increases, telomeres tend to be longer.”

“Because telomere length is a biomarker of the senescence of cells, the present findings suggest that cell aging may be accelerated in U.S. adults as caffeine intake increases, but may be decelerated as coffee consumption increases.”

“Given the magnitude and importance of these relationships, additional research is warranted.”

Caffeine consumption and telomere length in men and women of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)


The investigation evaluated the relationship between caffeine intake and coffee consumption and leukocyte telomere length, a biomarker of the senescence of cells.

A total of 5826 adults from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) were studied cross-sectionally. Using the quantitative polymerase chain reaction method, telomere length was compared to standard reference DNA. Caffeine intake from foods and beverages and coffee consumption were measured using a validated, multi-pass, computer-assisted, 24-h recall system administered by NHANES interviewers. The following covariates were controlled: age, gender, race, marital status, education, housing, smoking, BMI, physical activity, alcohol use, and coffee intake (or caffeine consumption).

Caffeine consumption was inversely related to telomere length (F = 15.1, P = 0.0005). For each 100 mg of caffeine consumed, telomeres were 35.4 base pairs shorter, after adjusting for the covariates. For each 100 mg of caffeine consumed among coffee drinkers only, telomeres were 36.7 base pairs shorter (F = 9.0, P = 0.0054), and among non-coffee drinkers only, 40.0 base pairs shorter (F = 8.5, P = 0.0067). Conversely, coffee intake was positively related to telomere length (F = 12.6, P = 0.0013), independent of the covariates.

Results suggest that caffeine consumption accounts for shorter telomeres in U.S. adults, independent of numerous covariates, whereas coffee intake predicts longer telomeres.