Caffeine: A Potential Ally in Weight Management and Joint Health

Caffeine: A Potential Ally in Weight Management and Joint Health
05.03.2024
  • A genetic study has found that caffeine may protect against obesity and joint disease.
  • It might help prevent obesity due to its effects on metabolism, appetite, and exercise.
  • Maintaining a lower BMI could additionally help prevent joint diseases.
  • Caffeine may also have direct anti-inflammatory effects that help joint disease.
  • Experts advise that adults consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day.

According to one survey, caffeine is extremely popular. In fact, 9 out of 10 people in the United States report drinking caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks.

This same survey found that people expected to receive several benefits from caffeine consumption, including being more alert, having an improved mood, feeling less stressed, and being able to perform better.

New research suggests that, in addition to providing these benefits, caffeine might also help people in other ways.

The study, which was published in BMC Medicine, found evidence that long-term caffeine use might help prevent people from gaining weight.

It might also reduce the risk of inflammation (osteoarthritis) and degeneration (osteoarthrosis) in the joints.

How caffeine’s effects on obesity and joint diseases were studied

For the study, the research team conducted a phenome-wide association study. The purpose of doing this type of study was to assess the various health outcomes associated with genetic predictors of plasma caffeine levels.

They performed a metabolome- and proteome-wide Mendelian randomization analysis with the goal of clarifying how caffeine might be exerting its effects on osteoarthritis, postmenopausal bleeding, serum metabolites, and plasma proteins.

The data for serum caffeine came from a previous study including 9,876 people of European descent between the ages of 47 and 71 years.

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Genetic association data for osteoarthrosis and osteoarthritis came from a meta-analysis including 177,517 cases and 649,173 controls.

Postmenopausal bleeding cases were determined based on ICD-10 codes.

They ruled out bias by dividing the study participants into subgroups based on the type of caffeinated beverage that they drank.

The research team then used the random-effects inverse-variance method to perform bidirectional Mendelian randomization to find out what sort of relationship existed between caffeine intake and metabolism.

Self-reported coffee intake was used as a proxy for caffeine consumption in 428,860 participants for which they had genetic association information.

The team additionally did a mediation analysis, multiplying MR estimates for serum caffeine effects on BMI by those for BMI effects on the studied health outcome.

The authors wrote that, overall, they found that caffeine was protective against both obesity and osteoarthritis.

How caffeine may help reduce the risk of obesity and joint disease

Steven Fiore, MD — a Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and the founder of Cannabis MD Telemed — said that caffeine might derive its ability to protect against obesity and joint disease through several different mechanisms.

“Firstly, caffeine is known to stimulate the central nervous system,” he said, “which can increase metabolism and promote the breakdown of fat cells. This increased metabolic rate can potentially aid in weight management and reduce the risk of obesity.”

Fiore also pointed to caffeine’s ability to enhance physical performance and endurance during exercise. This can help with weight maintenance as well as joint health, he said.

Reda Elmardi — a Registered Dietician, certified nutritionist ISSA, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Trainer, health expert, and owner of Activbuilt — additionally pointed out that caffeine can suppress appetite.

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“Consuming caffeine has been linked to reduced feelings of hunger and increased feelings of fullness,” he noted. “This can lead to a decrease in calorie intake, which can be helpful in preventing weight gain and obesity.”

Finally, according to Fiore, when it comes to joint diseases, caffeine has certain anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve arthritis symptoms.

“Inflammation plays a significant role in the progression of joint diseases, and caffeine’s ability to modulate inflammatory pathways may provide protective effects against joint degeneration and pain,” he concluded.

How much caffeine is safe to consume daily

Elmardi cites the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation that adults consume a maximum of 400 milligrams of caffeine per day.

This is the equivalent of four 8-ounce cups of coffee, he said.

“However, individual tolerance to caffeine can vary,” Elmardi added, “so it is important to monitor your caffeine intake and its effects on your body.”

So, what happens if you exceed what your body can tolerate?

“While moderate caffeine consumption can have potential health benefits, excessive consumption can lead to negative health effects,” he explained.

Some potential risks that you might face, per Elmardi, include anxiety, sleeplessness, digestive issues, and an increased heart rate.

“It is important to consume caffeine in moderation,” he advised, “and be mindful of your overall intake from various sources such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, and chocolate.”

Takeaway Note

A new genetic study published on February 20, 2024, in BMC Medicine, has found that caffeine may have protective effects against both obesity and joint diseases.

The study looked at how various health outcomes were linked with genetic predictors of plasma caffeine levels, finding associations between caffeine and reduced risk for obesity as well as joint inflammation and degeneration.

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Experts say caffeine might protect against obesity due to its ability to increase metabolism, reduce appetite, and improve exercise performance.

It might help prevent joint disease through the benefits of maintaining a lower BMI and the direct anti-inflammatory effects of caffeine.

It is recommended that adults consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day in order to avoid negative health effects such as anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues, and increased heart rate.

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