A study involving 12,000 participants over 20 years has found that those who enjoy caffeinated drinks such as tea or coffee daily have less chance of experiencing frailty in old age. 

Researchers from the National University of Singapore wished to examine the potential association between drinking caffeine-containing beverages at midlife and the risk of physical frailty in later life. Due to the ageing world population, frailty is an issue that is increasing.

Frailty is described as being “characterised by diminished strength, endurance, and reduced physiologic function that increases an individual’s vulnerability for developing increased dependency and/or death”.

To find a link, researchers assessed the amount of caffeine-containing beverages individuals from a cohort of 12583 Chinese people living in Singapore drank at the beginning of the study, and then assessed levels of frailty at a third follow-up twenty years later. 

During the first round of observations which began in 1993 and continued until 1998 participants had an average age of 53, and an average age of 73 in the third follow-up observation round which took place between 2014 and 2017. 

Researchers used questionnaires to assess levels of caffeine intake during the first observations, and a quantifiable cardiovascular assessment process to ascertain levels of frailty in the third follow-up observation round. 

The results from the observations show that those who drank tea and coffee daily in middle age experienced less frailty than those who were not daily drinkers of beverages containing caffeine. When researchers explored the data in more detail they found those who drank four cups a day or more and those that drank black tea and black coffee received the most benefits. 

The results could be used to help people put dietary plans in place when they are younger that will hopefully aid them in staying healthy, happy, and active in later years. 

In their conclusion, the team headed by Professor Koh Woon Puay, of the Healthy Longevity Translational Research Programme at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the University, said, “Our study showed that the consumption of coffee, tea, and caffeine at midlife may be associated with a reduced likelihood of physical frailty in late life. Coffee and tea have been cultivated and consumed for centuries, and they remain popular and widely available today. Therefore, interventions that encourage the consumption of these beverages alongside other dietary and lifestyle modifications may prove to be feasible and effective in reducing the risk of physical frailty in older adults.”

The UK consumes an estimated 100 million cups of tea per day and an estimated 98 million cups of coffee per day, making caffeine the country’s favourite drug. The subject of whether tea and coffee consumption is beneficial has been covered in numerous studies, with conclusions often contradicting each other. One study from 2023 found both positives and negatives, however, the general consensus is that tea and coffee are fairly good for you in moderation, with more research needed to fully examine their medicinal properties, a sentiment echoed in the latest research. 

“Further studies are still needed to confirm these longitudinal associations, and to investigate if these effects on physical frailty are mediated by caffeine or other chemical compounds” the study noted. 

Drinking tea or coffee every day in middle age keeps you stronger in older age, study finds

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