Medically reviewed by Michele Emery, DNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/26/2020
Worried your morning cup of coffee might not be good for your health? Don’t be. Not only does modern research show that drinking coffee might help you live longer, it also shows that caffeine could play an important role in slowing down the effects of aging. That’s right—the active ingredient in coffee that most of us think of as a helpful stimulant could also be a powerful anti-aging substance.
Caffeine’s benefits as an anti-aging substance aren’t purely aesthetic. It’s also linked to possible improvements in your heart health and risk of developing heart disease, all-cause mortality and overall cognitive function.
Below, we’ve dug into the scientific evidence for caffeine as an anti-aging substance to help you learn more about caffeine’s potential benefits from an anti-aging perspective. We’ve also looked at how you can use caffeine to improve your overall health and slow down the effects of aging.
Just a few decades ago, mainstream science was warning people about the dangers of drinking too much coffee. However, new research shows that not only does caffeine not cause many of the diseases it was once associated with, but that caffeine consumption can actually contribute to a longer, healthier life.
Caffeine has several benefits as an anti-aging substance. The first is that it appears to protect your body against chronic inflammation—a condition that occurs increasingly as you get older.
As people age, inflammation throughout the body rises. While there’s no direct link between a large amount of inflammation and mortality, inflammation is believed to contribute to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and heart problems. Researchers believe this is why many of these diseases become more common, and potentially more serious, as we get older.
David Furman of Stanford University, who was part of the team behind a study into caffeine’s effects on aging and inflammation, noted that many diseases we associate with aging are “not really diseases of aging, per se, but rather diseases of inflammation.”
The study found that consuming caffeine played an important role in protecting the body against the effects of inflammation. “The more caffeine people consumed, the more protected they were against a chronic state of inflammation.”
Interestingly, the study didn’t find any upper boundary on the effects of caffeine. In fact, heavy caffeine users—people who drank five or more cups of coffee a day—had the lowest levels of inflammatory gene pathway activity.
It’s worth noting that inflammation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most of the time, it’s a vital part of your immune system. However, as you age, inflammation plays an increasingly big role in numerous diseases, many of which appear to be stunted by caffeine.
The key takeaway? While caffeine isn’t a flawless prevention tool for all age-related diseases and research into caffeine’s role in prevention is far from conclusive, it appear to work well for reducing inflammation.
Other studies into caffeine’s effects on aging tend to produce similar findings. A 2012 study of caffeine’s role in lifespan found that caffeine can reduce insulin signaling and cause people to eat less; two important factors for a longer, healthier life.
In short, while there’s no conclusive proof yet, caffeine does appear to slow down a range of factors related to aging.
We’ve all heard that drinking too much coffee makes you look older. Like many common health and skincare “truths,” the idea that caffeine contributes to the visual effects of aging isn’t exactly proven by science.
In fact, science might prove the opposite. While drinking caffeine in the form of coffee won’t do much to help your skin, skincare products that contain caffeine have a variety of benefits that can help your skin look smoother, younger and healthier.
Used topically, caffeine might be able to protect your skin from UV damage. UV damage from sun exposure is one of the most powerful factors in photoaging, meaning that spending extra time out in the sun isn’t a good idea if you’re worried about wrinkles and skin discoloration.
Caffeine is also packed with antioxidants, meaning it could play a role in slowing down some of the visual signs of aging. In a 2013 study, researchers listed caffeine as a substance that could play a role in “slowing down the process of photoaging of the skin.”
Some studies also show that caffeine can work well as a treatment against certain types of skin irritation. In a 1977 study of dermatitis patients, researchers found that topical caffeine helped reduce itchiness, redness, oozing and scaling of the skin.
Finally, because caffeine works as a diuretic, it can help to reduce facial swelling. Some studies also show that caffeine’s diuretic effects can help you retain less fat in certain skin cells, making it a useful tool for dealing with puffiness and localized fat on your face.
Does this mean that caffeine will definitely make you look younger? Of course not. Right now, no anti-aging substance has a 100% success rate. But the scientific evidence shows numerous real, proven anti-aging benefits to topical caffeine use.
Want to learn more about caffeine’s benefits as a topical anti-aging substance? Our guide to the benefits of caffeine for better, healthier skin explains how you can use caffeine to deal with puffy skin, wrinkles and other signs of aging.
As well as helping to slow down and prevent certain effects of aging, caffeine has a huge range of other benefits for your health:
Lower risk of stroke. Studies show that drinking coffee can have a preventive effect on stroke occurrence. Interestingly, this study found that drinking quite a lot of coffee—four cups per day, in the study—produces the preventive effect on strokes.
It’s worth noting that this study focuses on people’s consumption of coffee, rather than caffeine specifically.
Increased fat loss. Caffeine helps you burn fat in two ways: by reducing your appetite, which makes it easier to eat fewer calories; and by boosting your metabolic rate, which helps your body burn more calories over the course of the day.
Studies show that caffeine can increase your metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn over the course of the day, without exercise) by up to 11 percent. Combined with a healthy diet, this can help you stay lean and avoid many obesity-related health issues.
Lower risk of Parkinson’s disease. In a 2001 study, researchers found that people who consume a moderate to high amount of caffeine have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than people who consume no caffeine at all.
Improved memory. A 2014 found study that caffeine improves memory consolidation for approximately 24 hours, meaning you might find it easier to remember facts, figures and other important information if you drink caffeinated beverages regularly.
Better mood. Studies show that doses of 200 to 250 mg of caffeine (about two to three cappuccinos, roughly) can elevate mood. This could be why it’s common to feel agitated and grumpy if you miss your morning coffee.
Like many of caffeine’s other benefits, this one turns around once you start to drink too much coffee. At doses of 600 mg or more, caffeine no longer improves your mood and can even start to cause anxiety and tension.
There’s also the most obvious benefit of caffeine: it makes you more alert and energetic. While this isn’t something you’ll notice from the topical caffeine most commonly used in skincare, it’s arguably the biggest benefit of your morning cup of coffee.
Interested in adding caffeine to your skincare and anti-aging toolkit? Used effectively, caffeine can help you to enjoy smoother, healthier skin with fewer visible signs of aging. It even plays a role in helping you lower your risk of non-melanoma skin cancer.
Our guide to using caffeine for better, healthier skin goes into more detail on the skincare and anti-aging benefits of caffeine, with actionable advice on how you can use caffeine as part of your skincare toolkit.