Low-grade chronic inflammation is associated with many chronic diseases and pathological conditions. Because physical activity and also caffeine, or coffee, have been suggested to induce anti-inflammatory effects, researchers from University of the Balearic Islands, in Palma, Spain, hypothesised that physically active participants consuming caffeine might present a more anti-inflammatory profile.
The aim of the present study was to determine the effect of regular caffeine intake, physical activity levels, and sedentary behaviour on the inflammatory status in healthy participants.
In total, 112 men and 132 women aged 18 to 55 years and belonging to the staff and student population of the University of the Balearic Islands volunteered to participate in this descriptive cross-sectional study.
Plasma concentrations of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory markers were measured. Weight, height, and body composition (bioelectrical impedance) were determined. Caffeine intake, physical activity levels and sitting time, and diet quality were determined using questionnaires.
Resulting data analysis showed that caffeine intake was associated with lower levels of the inflammation marker C-reactive protein (CRP) while body fat percentage was associated with higher levels. It was also found that visceral fat and sitting time had the clearest link with increased levels of the inflammatory pro-inflammatory markers.
The report concludes: "Low caffeine intake exerted a slight anti-inflammatory effect characterised by lower CRP plasma levels...
"Body fat, both total and visceral, and sedentary behaviour have been shown to be important and independent inflammatory predictors, inducing higher levels of pro-inflammatory markers, but also decreased levels of anti-inflammatory markers."
The benefits of coffee
In vitro studies have suggested an anti-inflammatory role for caffeine, mainly inhibiting TNF-α production. Regarding in vivo studies, only a few have addressed the effects of caffeine supplementation on blood inflammatory markers in humans. These studies used a single dose of caffeine or used coffee as supplement when longer interventions were tested, reporting slight anti-inflammatory effects from the supplementation.
However, when coffee is used, many more components than caffeine alone are included in the supplement, as coffee is rich in bioactive compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, mainly chlorogenic acids.
It has been shown that regular coffee intake is associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome among other clinical conditions where low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress is involved in their development. Furthermore, studies have shown anti-inflammatory effects of regular coffee consumption.
Rodas. L., et al
"Effects of Habitual Caffeine Intake, Physical Activity Levels, and Sedentary Behaviour on the Inflammatory Status in a Healthy Population"