Here’s how drinking coffee could protect your heart

In mice, caffeine boosts cells’ energy and that helps repair damage

CUPSA JOE Studies have shown that people who drink four cups of coffee a day have a lower risk of dying of a heart attack. A new study in mice may show one reason for that; caffeine in coffee gives cells energy to fight off damage.


Coffee revs up cell’s energy factories and helps hearts recover from heart attacks, a study of mice suggests.

Morris is a neuroscientist — someone who studies the brain. She works at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. And yes, she is throwing a party.

In the study, researchers gave mice the equivalent of four cups of coffee a day for 10 days before inducing heart attacks in the rodents. Cells in mice that got caffeine repaired the heart attack damage better than cells in mice that didn’t get caffeine, researchers report June 21 in PLOS Biology. Caffeine helps move a protein called p27 into mitochondria, the organelles that produce energy for cells. Increasing p27 in mitochondria upped the organelle’s energy production, and that helped heart cells recover from damage, a team led by researchers from Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf in Germany found.

People and other animals also have p27, raising the possibility that caffeine could help heal people’s hearts, too. Normally, p27 is found in the nucleus of cells, where it helps control when cells divide. Its energy-boosting role in the mitochondria wasn’t known before.

Coffee seems to protect against heart disease, diabetes and other ailments, except cancer (SN: 10/3/15, p. 16). The new discovery may help explain why, says biochemist Judith Haendeler of the university’s medical faculty.

“The old doctors’ warning that coffee isn’t good for people with heart disease, that’s out for us, based on what we found,” says molecular geneticist Joachim Altschmied. But Haendeler cautions that just upping coffee consumption without doing other heart-friendly activities such as exercising and eating right probably won’t do people much good. She further warns that drinking too much coffee or green tea may drive too much p27 into mitochondria and destroy them, causing health problems.

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