Coffee & Fasting Together Enhance Longevity

Coffee & Fasting Together Enhance Longevity


If like me, you are moderately addicted to coffee and you have a passing interest in Longevity relayed topics, such as autophagy; the destruction of senescent (zombie) cells then these new coffee longevity related studies are definitely worth looking into. 

This article covers a study published in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communication that investigated how caffeine induces autophagy. All the studies included in this review regarding coffee relate only to the consumption of black coffee without additives and/or sweeteners.

Coffee’s Popularity Worldwide

Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, there are literally thousands of different types of brews, roasts and blends, and everyone including me has their favourite. Good then that this humble bean can have such a profound effect on our longevity and healthspan. 

Coffee’s Effects on Autophagy 

Coffee consumption may have specific effects on Autophagy. Autophagy is a process of cellular recycling that is amplified during fasting. Decades of research suggests that potential health benefits of coffee consumption include protection against Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, liver cancer and that it can improve heart health too.

Benefits & Risks of Coffee Consumption

A comprehensive review published in the Annual Review of Nutrition focused on coffee and caffeine consumption and its various health outcomes. A meta-analysis of observational and randomized controlled trials suggests that there are many potential health benefits, and obviously some risks, but overall, there is a reduced risk of mortality associated with coffee consumption.

Benefits of Coffee Consumption

Coffee consumption has been associated with the following health outcomes and remember this relates to black coffee, no cream, no milk, no sugar, and no artificial sweeteners. The key in this list for those of us looking to keep the diseases of aging at bay are:

  • Protection against various forms of cancer including breast, liver, colon, endometrial and prostate cancer
  • Protection against Parkinson’s disease
  • Protection against Type 2 diabetes
  • Weight loss
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Reduced mortality
  • Protection against liver disease
  • Protection against heart disease
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Antioxidant effects
  • Protection against liver cirrhosis

Risks of Coffee Consumption

Drinking too much coffee can result in some unpleasant adverse side-effects, these are usually related to the caffeine that is found in the coffee. Like alcohol, caffeine sensitivity is a very personal thing, so issues with sleep may be down to the time of day that caffeine is consumed, the strength of the brew and the quantity consumed. Issues may be, but not restricted to:

  • Increased anxiety symptoms
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Reduced sleep cycles

Caffeine’s Effect on Autophagy

A study published in the journal of Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communication investigated the power of caffeine to induce autophagy in the skeletal muscle of rats. The researchers concluded that caffeine promoted AMPK-dependent autophagy through calcium-mediated pathways in the skeletal muscle. This does not mean that high levels of caffeine are necessarily required for maximizing the effects of autophagy in your cells, but a little caffeine early in your day may boost that valuable autophagy induced cellular recycling period as you fast.

What is Autophagy?

I have mentioned autophagy a few times now, so what is it? Autophagy is a process of cellular recycling; Autophagy is the Greek for self-eating, so at the cellular level your body becomes cannibalistic and eats the senescent or zombie cells that are weak and no use to us anymore. Fasting-induced autophagy has also been shown to dramatically increase the amount autophagy that takes place in our liver, heart, muscle and even brain tissue.

What is a Fasted State?

What is the fasted state? When you fast for around 12 hours or more, you enter a metabolic state called ketosis. In this state, your body starts to break down and burn fat instead of glucose. Some of this fat is used by the liver to produce ketones, they serve as an alternative energy source for your brain cells and cells in other tissues when glucose isn’t readily available.

Fasting and mTOR

When the body is depleted of glucose or sugar, the insulin signaling pathway and mTOR pathways that are responsible for cellular growth are inhibited or in other words “temporarily turned off.” 

This inhibition of the “Mammalian Target of Rapamycin” or mTOR pathway signals to the body that the genes responsible for cellular growth can take a break, while the genes responsible for fat metabolism, stress resistance and damage repair should be turned on through the (AMPK) pathway.

The Second Study

In a second study that was published in the journal ‘Cell Cycle’, researchers looked at the effects of both caffeinated and non-caffeinated coffee on autophagy. They found that both regular and decaffeinated brands of coffee resulted in rapid autophagy in mice 1 to 4 hours after coffee consumption. 

This increase in autophagy was observed in the liver, the heart and in muscle tissues; this has only been tested in mice, but there appears to be a chance of huge benefit weighed against very little risk, unless you have an actual coffee allergy. 

Apart from caffeine, there are over 1000 chemical compounds in coffee, and to ascertain which combination is the reason for an allergy is a challenging task.

This rapid onset of autophagy with the consumption of both caffeinated and decaffeinated forms of coffee was accompanied with the inhibition of mTOR pathway, meaning the genes responsible for fat metabolism, stress resistance and damage repair could be switched on.

Coffee consumption was also associated with a broad de-acetylation of cellular proteins. De-acetylation of key proteins is also known to turn on autophagy. Some specific antioxidant compounds found only in decaffeinated coffee can also de-acetylate key proteins, which in turn initiate autophagy.

Decaffeinated Coffee

This research suggests that while caffeine can play its own significant role in autophagy, some compounds that are not removed in the decaffeination process; researchers believe these to be the polyphenols, may have an even stronger effect on autophagy activation, so, if you are sensitive to caffeine, then decaf is most definitely an effective option.

So, maybe a mix of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee during a fast may bring even more benefit?

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