The humanity has always strived to have a healthier and longer life. The wish to surpass aging can be seen even in the most ancient of cultures. In the Epic of Gilgamesh the prince of Uruk, mourning his fallen friend, is searching for the source of the eternal youth, the flower of immortality. The ideas of the eternal life also drove alchemists from Ancient Greece and Middle Ages. One of their goals was the search of the elixir of immortality.
Of course, they didn’t have enough knowledge and sufficient technologies at that time, and the scientific method was yet to form. The first practical results in life extension appeared alongside the development of biogerontology and the science of biomarkers during the last decades. Although gene and cell therapies promise to change everything we know about the anti-aging, the primary method of modern therapy is the use of geroprotectors.
Geroprotectors are substances that can halt the aging processes in the organism. The science of aging is still young (pun intended), and we only know a few of geroprotectors. Most of them are therapeutics: metformin, acetylsalicylic acid, rapamycin. However, the interest in the non-pharmaceutical geroprotectors is steadily growing in the recent times. Caffeine is one of such substances.
Caffeine has already demonstrated its usefulness. It improves alertness, delays drowsiness, and its long-term intake is capable of enhancing the cognition. For the longevity practice, the high value is held in its availability: coffee and tea are the most popular drinks in the world, right after water. Although the anti-aging properties of these beverages are mainly framed by the presence of antioxidants, not caffeine, the latest research states that caffeine also can boost lifespan.
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and prevents the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Although the mechanism of such interaction is unknown, the intake of the caffeine is linked to the decreased risk of the Parkinson disease. Besides that, it is known that caffeine also protects against dementia. According to the meta-analysis of data gathered from 23,000 individuals aged from 24 to 81, daily intake of three to five coffee cups during the young and middle age decrease the risk of the Alzheimer’s disease onset by 65%. Genetic traits were not taken into account in this research.
Moreover, new trials have started researching the caffeine’s effect on the mTORC1 metabolism. mTORC1 is an enzyme that has many functions. For the biogerontology, the most important of them is the stimulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that cause accelerated aging.
mTORC1 inhibition is one of the most effective methods of aging delay. Rapamycin, the most well-known of the mTORC1 inhibitors extends lifespan up to 30%, which is shown in the animal trials. The last experiments have shown that caffeine boosts the rapamycin effect in the yeast. It is unknown how the effects that are observed in the yeast would translate into humans. However, it is also shown that caffeine extends the lifespan of C. elegans worms. The similar effect in such different organisms shows the high probability that the caffeine can really delay aging.
There are contradictory data that show that the caffeine consumption can decrease the risk of the cardiovascular disease, the most significant cause of death according to the World Health Organisation. The reason for this lies in the fact that caffeine’s effect is individual and genetic-dependent. Those who metabolize caffeine quickly due to the CYP1A2 gene mutation, get the benefits of the caffeine. Slow metabolizers, however, have the opposite effect: increase in the caffeine intake leads to the increased risk of the cardiovascular disease. An intensive intake of the caffeine nullifies other positive effects of the caffeine and leads slow metabolizers to change their dietary habits.
Caffeine is a highly promising geroprotector: safe, studied, and affordable. Its action isn’t limited to the delay of aging ; it can positively affect memory, alertness, and the ability to learn. The main limitation of caffeine intake is its high dependence on genetics. While rapid metabolizers should consume caffeine without any particular restrictions, slow metabolizers should avoid regular coffee. Most of the Europeans are slow metabolizers, but there are ways of affecting CYP1A2 and the speed of metabolism. Because of this, caffeine is actively used in the biohacking practices as a way to improve one’s cognitive abilities and to extend lifespan. Biogerontology is actively developing, and it is possible that we will soon have enough data to measure the anti-aging properties of the caffeine.