Caffeine makes the genetic material in the cells grow older, researchers from Tel Aviv University have discovered.
For years we thought coffee was bad for our health. Then, new studies found that a few cups of coffee a day can actually be pretty healthy. Now, Israeli researchers have discovered that caffeine and alcohol affect the cells' ageing, the genome's stability, and even the chance of getting cancer.
The study was conducted by Prof. Prof. Martin Kupiec, Dr. Gal Hagit Romano, Yaniv Harari, Dr. Assaf Gottlieb and other researchers, and was published recently in the PLoS Genetics journal.
The researchers based their study on the finding that stress shortens telomeres – the ends of the chromosomes, which protect the genetic material in each cell. The telomeres serve as the cell's "biological clock" and become shorter as the cell grows older.
"We found out that substances we are exposed to in our daily life – especially caffeine and alcohol – affected the length of the telomeres," explained Dr. Gal Hagit Romano.
"We found that a low concentration of caffeine (for example like in a regular shot of espresso) significantly shortened the telomeres. A low concentration of alcohol (5% and 7%), however, elongated them significantly," she added.
Cancer cells actively lengthen the cell's telomeres, so that they can continue dividing forever.