Coffee reduces DNA breakage: study

Just another reason to appreciate coffee

Graphic by Keegan Steele

Coffee’s place in a healthy diet has always been a divisive topic. If you’re one of its fans, you’re in luck: recent studies have shown that drinking coffee not only reduces DNA damage, but does so more quickly than originally believed.

Here’s a basic rundown of DNA damage. Human beings, much like cars or well-read books, break down over time. DNA gets damaged all the time, and some of it is really not a big deal. That being said, as you get older, your body becomes less able to repair DNA.

That wisdom you gain with age could be part of the problem, as recent findings have shown that the same process our brains use to learn new things leads to DNA degeneration. A DNA break in an aging human can have very serious consequences, many of which are associated with cognitive decline.

Coffee has already been shown to possibly lower your risk of a long list of illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, chronic liver disease, and breast cancer. Caffeine has been proven to be neuroprotective, and is used in rodent studies focused on treating Alzheimer’s. Coffee lowers estrogen and insulin levels in the body, is full of antioxidants, and can possibly even have an antidepressant effect.

And, of course, there is the alertness effect. That feeling that got you through finals in December is caused by increased neuron activity in the brain, which itself is caused by caffeine blocking something called adenosine, which causes drowsiness.

In one of the recent studies, carried out by Elke Richling and her colleagues at the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany, 13 healthy adults were given 200 millilitres of coffee four times over eight hours.

Blood samples were taken and the samples were tested to judge their DNA integrity. The samples showed reduction in DNA breakage within two hours of coffee consumption. Within eight hours there was up to 30 per cent more damage reduction than there was before the experiment.

It’s not all perfect, however. Coffee’s benefits come with some negative effects. Coffee is also shown to raise cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Your Starbucks order that takes more than three sentences to construct might not work either, as added sweeteners detract from the coffee’s health benefits.

The experiment also notably used less than 800 millilitres of coffee, which is less than two medium-sized cups at most coffee shop chains.

Like many things in life, coffee consumption seems to remain a grey area where moderation is key. If you’re concerned about your own susceptibility to coffee’s good or bad side effects, speak with a health care professional who knows your personal health history.