A new study finds that drinking four cups of coffee daily could set off a sequence of internal events that could boost heart health, especially in older adults.
Researchers from Heinrich-Heine-University and the IUF-Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine in Düsseldorf, Germany found that caffeine levels equivalent to around four cups of coffee protected against heart damage in pre-diabetic, obese mice, and in aged mice.
The study of mice found that caffeine induced the movement of a regulatory protein called p27 into mitochondria, which set off certain physiological events that are crucial to enhancing the function of heart cells as well as helping in heart attack recovery.
Reached in humans by drinking four cups of coffee
The study authors found that p27 -- an enzyme that normally slows cell division -- promoted migration of endothelial cells into mitochondria, which ultimately helped to protect heart muscle cells from cell death. It also triggered the conversion of fibroblasts into cells containing contractile fibers.
These tasks are vital to the repair of heart muscle following a heart attack, the researchers explained.
"Our results indicate a new mode of action for caffeine, one that promotes protection and repair of heart muscle through the action of mitochondrial p27," said lead author Professor Judith Haendeler, adding that "enhancing mitochondrial p27 could serve as a potential therapeutic strategy not only in cardiovascular diseases but also in improving health span."
"These results should lead to better strategies for protecting heart muscle from damage, including consideration of coffee consumption or caffeine as an additional dietary factor in the elderly population," Haendeler said.
The study has been published in the journal PLOS Biology.