Coffee found to affect metabolism in dozens of ways, including impacting steroid pathways
04/15/2018 // Michelle Simmons // Views

Coffee is able to alter metabolism in many ways, including those that affect the steroid pathway, according to a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. In the study, researchers from Northwestern University found that coffee also changed many other metabolites in the blood than previously known.

The researchers conducted their study in Finland, which lasted for three months. In the study, 47 participants were asked to refrain from coffee for a month. They were then asked to drink four cups a day for the second month and eight cups a day for the third month. During each stage, blood was collected from participants for analysis. They then used advanced profiling strategies to look at more than 800 metabolites in the blood that was collected. Advanced technology was also used that allowed them to measure hundreds of metabolites in human blood samples.

They found that consumption of coffee, particularly with eight cups each day, caused reductions in the blood metabolites of the endocannabinoid system. Metabolites are chemicals in the blood that change after eating or drinking or for other reasons. The endocannabinoid metabolic pathway plays a role in the regulation of people's stress response. Moreover, some endocannabinoids decrease when a person experience chronic stress.

Certain metabolites related to the androsteroid system increased after consuming four to eight cups of coffee each day. This suggested that coffee might play a role in the excretion or elimination of steroids. The steroid pathway is a focus for some diseases, including cancers. Thus, coffee may also have an effect on these diseases.


“The increased coffee consumption over the two-month span of the trial may have created enough stress to trigger a decrease in metabolites in this system,” said Marilyn Cornelis, lead author of the study and assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “It could be our bodies' adaptation to try to get stress levels back to equilibrium.”

Other functions, such as cognition, blood pressure, immunity, addiction, sleep, appetite, energy, and glucose metabolism, are also regulated by the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid pathways might also affect eating behaviors.

The benefits of drinking coffee

A large review of studies published in the BMJ suggested that drinking three to four cups of coffee a day may provide some health benefits. The study review found that coffee drinks had a lower risk of liver disease and some cancers, as well as a lower risk of dying from stroke.

The review, conducted by researchers at the University of Southampton, included more than 200 studies that provided data on the effect of coffee on all aspects of the human body. The researchers said that the greatest benefits of drinking coffee were seen in reduced risks of liver disease, including cancer. However, they could not prove that coffee caused the effects. Other factors, such as age, cigarette smoking, and exercise could have also contributed to the results. (Related: Coffee drinkers have a lower mortality rate and lower risk of various cancers)

They also found that people who drank around three cups of coffee a day had a lower risk of developing heart problems or dying from them, compared to those who do not drink coffee. Moreover, pregnant women should not drink more than 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day, or two mugs of instant coffee, because it can increase the risk of miscarriage. Women at risk of fractures should also limit their coffee intake. For other adults, drinking three to four cups of coffee a day is considered safe.

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