Caffeine’s jolt may do more than just keep you awake. A new study supports coffee’s health benefits by showing how the antioxidants in caffeine fight damage-causing free radicals.
Researchers say their experiments explain the chemistry of how the antioxidants in caffeine seek out and destroy free radicals associated with Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
Free radicals are molecules in the body that attack healthy cells and cause damage that can lead to disease. The health benefits of antioxidants are largely due to their effects in protecting against damage from these free radicals.
Coffee: an Antioxidant Goldmine
Recent studies have shown that coffee is one of the richest sources of antioxidants in the average person’s diet. But little is known about how these antioxidants from coffee, including caffeine, work against free radicals.
In the study, published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry B, researcher Jorge Rafael Leon-Carmona of Universidad Autnoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa, in Mexico, evaluated the five different theoretical mechanisms of the chemical reaction between the antioxidants in caffeine and free radicals.
The researchers found that a mechanism called the radical adduct formation (RAF) is the main mechanism involved in caffeine’s ability to protect against damage from free radicals, which is consistent with previous studies in animals.
Researchers say the results support the notion that caffeine is a major source of antioxidant activity in coffee.
- Leon, R. The Journal of Physical Chemistry B, March 25, 2011; vol 115: pp 4538-4546.
- News release, American Chemical Society.
Written by : Jeff Behar