Could caffeine transform the average nan into Supergran
Stimulant found to boost muscles in elderly
09:56 GMT, 29 June 2012
Drinking coffee could help older people maintain their strength and reduce their chances of falling and injuring themselves, a new study has found.
The decline in muscle strength that
occurs as we age can reduce quality of life by making everyday tasks harder.
The process is not well understood, but it is clear that preserving
muscle tone is key.
Fighting fit Caffeine was found to boost older muscles. However, it can also stop the body from absorbing calcium
It is known that in adults in their prime caffeine
helps the muscles to produce more force. But as we age, our muscles
naturally change and become weaker.
So, sports scientists at Coventry
University looked for the first time at whether caffeine could also have a strengthening effect on pensioners.
study on mice revealed that caffeine boosted power in two different
muscles in elderly adults – an effect that was not seen in developing
Jason Tallis, the study's primary
author, said: 'With the importance of
maintaining a physically active lifestyle to preserve health and
functional capacity, the performance-enhancing benefit of caffeine could
prove beneficial in the aging population.'
The researchers isolated muscles from
mice ranging in age from juvenile to elderly, then tested their
performance before and after caffeine treatment. The stimulant is found in coffee and a number of soft drinks.
Coffee has also been linked to improved memory
They looked at two
different skeletal muscles, which are the muscles we can control
voluntarily. The first was the diaphragm, a core muscle used for
respiration; the second was a leg muscle called the extensor digitorum
longus (EDL), used for locomotion.
Tallis said: 'Despite a reduced effect in the elderly, caffeine may
still provide performance-enhancing benefits.'
Consuming caffeine has also been linked to improved thinking processes and improved memory skills in later life.
However, previous research has shown that excessive caffeine intake may cause the body to rid itself of calcium – a
nutrient vital in supporting bone strength in later life.
It can also temporarily increase blood pressure, although the long-term effects of this are unclear.
The latest study will be presented at the Society for Experimental Biology this month.