Santa Barbara
70° F
Santa Maria
53° F
San Luis Obispo
53° F
58° F

For seniors: Is caffeine a good thing?

Published On: Jan 31 2013 12:34:09 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 14 2013 11:22:42 AM CST
Prices - Coffee

iStock Image

Coffee -- Coffee prices jumped 27 percent between December and March as companies passed along their record cost of unroasted beans.

By Michael E. Newman, Pure Matters

Most Americans older than 60 love their coffee. The National Coffee Association says older adults drink the most coffee.

Is that good or bad for you? A slew of studies in the last 40 years have addressed coffee's impact on older Americans -- especially the effects of caffeine. All in all, the news is good. It seems modest consumption yields few, if any, health risks. What's modest? No more than three 8-ounce cups a day of caffeinated coffee, or about 250 mg of caffeine.

A stimulant, caffeine revs up the nervous system minutes after you drink it. Positive effects include better reaction time, mental acuity, alertness, and mood, as well as pain relief. But caffeine may also cause nervous jitters, trouble sleeping, stomach upset, and heartburn.

Besides coffee, caffeine is found in tea, chocolate, cocoa, and colas. It is also added to certain medications, including pain relievers and cold remedies.

Here's what the research says about some common health concerns.

High blood pressure

Caffeinated drinks, including coffee, raise your blood pressure slightly by increasing the levels of stress hormones.

"However, long-term evaluations of moderate coffee drinkers -- including studies focusing on seniors -- found that this effect drops off after a while because most people develop a tolerance to caffeine," says Linda Massey, Ph.D., R.D., an expert on senior nutrition in Spokane, Wash. "The studies indicate that coffee drinkers are not at higher risk for developing chronic hypertension."

Heart attacks

Part of the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School-based Nurses Health Study looked for links between coffee and coronary heart disease (CHD). Researchers studied nearly 86,000 women from 1980 to 1990. They found that even women who drank six or more cups of coffee a day did not show an increased risk for heart disease. A similar study in 1990 of 45,000 men ages 45 to 70 by the Harvard School of Public Health also showed that drinking four or more cups of coffee a day did not increase the risk for a heart attack.

Cholesterol levels

Two substances in caffeinated coffee -- kahweol and cafestol -- could raise your cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association says, however, that paper filters take out these substances. That means you needn't worry if you drink filtered coffee. But that isn't true if you enjoy cappuccinos, lattes, and other unfiltered, espresso-based drinks. These drinks also tend to be high in fat because of the whole milk and whipped cream used.


A 2006 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that middle-aged adults who drank four or more cups of coffee a day -- regular or decaf -- had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers say ingredients in coffee appear to decrease the amount of sugar in your blood.


"Several recent studies suggest that coffee may have anticancer properties," says Robert Shmerling, M.D., a Boston medical researcher. He cited studies showing that coffee drinkers were 25 to 75 percent less likely to get cancer of the colon, liver, and breast.

Dr. Shmerling says antioxidants in coffee reduce cell damage from free radicals. That may explain these effects.

Bone loss

Caffeine makes people urinate more, and that leads to a loss of calcium. Large studies of women after menopause show they are more sensitive to this effect than younger women. But significant calcium loss -- and the risk for osteoporosis that goes with it -- is only likely if a woman isn't getting enough calcium in her diet.


Studies show that people who drink alcohol but also drink three or more cups of coffee a day have half the risk for cirrhosis, compared with people who drink alcohol but not coffee.

Parkinson's disease

One study looked at 30 years of data from the Honolulu Heart Program. It found that men who did not drink coffee were two to three times more likely to develop the disease than those who drank one to four cups of caffeinated coffee a day. The researchers suggest caffeine may block the brain's receptors for a chemical called adenosine. That lets the level of another chemical, dopamine, increase. Dopamine controls the smooth, coordinated function of the body's muscles and movement. Lack of dopamine causes Parkinson's.

A positive conclusion

Coffee -- and caffeine, in general -- has many health benefits for older adults. The American Medical Association and other experts stress that moderation is important: Three cups a day is fine, but 10 cups is too much. Make sure the rest of your diet is healthy, as well. Eat nutritious meals, and for weight control, consume only as many calories a day as you burn in activity. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. That means no more than one drink a day for anyone 65 or older.



The views expressed are not those of this company or its affiliated companies. Please note by clicking on "Post" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms Of Service and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. 
blog comments powered by Disqus
  • fatal_accident_investigation

    Extensive Investigation into Triple Fatal Accident

    An extensive investigation is underway to determine the cause of death in a triple fatal rollover accident Monday morning in Santa Barbara.

  • Triple Fatal Auto Accident on Highway

    3 Dead In Early Morning Accident, Driver Arrested For DUI

    The 101 southbound through Santa Barbara reopened just before 12:30 Monday afternoon as authorities investigate what they say was a deadly two car DUI accident.

  • fuzion_store_business_santa_barbara

    UCSB Group Boycotts Business For Promoting Deltopia

    A UCSB student group is boycotting a local business for creating the Deltopia Facebook page, which they said brought in thousands of outsiders to the small college town.

  • girl_child_coughing_sick_whooping_cough

    Contagious Diseases Making a Comeback in California

    Deadly diseases that were a thing of the past are making a comeback in California.

  • Witnesses to Fatal Crash

    Eyewitnesses See Triple Fatal Crash from Roadside Camp

    A homeless couple watching the freeway from their campsite in Santa Barbara this morning, witnessed the triple fatal accident that took the lives of two teens and a young man.

  • Triple Fatal Auto Accident on Highway

    DUI Driver in Fatal Early Morning Accident Ordered to Detox Program in 1995

    The Santa Barbara woman arrested for DUI in the early morning accident that left three people dead early Monday morning has a lengthy court record out of Ventura County. Kimberly Kreis, 52, was ordered to serve 30 days in a detox program as far back as 1995.

    The car that Kreis was driving crashed into a disabled Mazda near the Castillo off-ramp of the southbound 101 freeway in Santa Barbara. Two 17 year old North Torrance High School students were killed in the accident- Jessica Leffew and Danielle Murillo. 20 year old Brian Lopez also died in the wreck. The driver of the Mazda, Eric August, is hospitalized in critical condition.

    A NewsChannel 3 investigation found records out of Ventrua County that appear to show that Greis has at least one prior conviction involving drugs and or alcohol, and in 1995 she was ordered to serve 30 days in a Cottage Hospital detox program.

    CHP investigators are still trying to piece together why the Mazda veered right into a guardrail, causing it to flip onto it's roof before coming to rest in the middle of the southbound freeway, which set into motion the deadly accident.

    CHP Officer Jonathan Guiterrez, said "A lot of things could have happened, He could have fallen asleep. We just don't know at this point."

  • Parents of Mallory Dies Sue Congresswoman, Her Former Aide, and U.S. Government

    The parents of a young Santa Barbara woman killed in a high profile, DUI case are suing Congresswoman Lois Capps, her former aide Raymond Morua, and the U-S government in federal court.

  • Larry Lee Cal Poly Coach

    Cal Poly Baseball Earns No. 1 National Ranking

    The Mustangs achieved the school's second No. 1 national ranking in Division I as Collegiate Baseball Newspaper has placed Cal Poly atop its Top 30.

  • Lupita Nyong'o

    REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

    People's 'World's Most Beautiful' list 2014

    People magazine recently named Lupita Nyong'o its "World's Most Beautiful" for 2014. See which other ladies earned a coveted spot on the annual list.

  • Slideshow: Extensive Investigation into Triple Fatal Accident

    An extensive investigation is underway to determine the cause of death in a triple fatal rollover accident Monday morning in Santa Barbara.