One of the not-so-fun side effects of aging is inevitable loss of strength and mobility. This is due in part to the natural loss of muscle that occurs over the years known as sarcopenia. To slow the process, the best thing you can do is stay active and exercise regularly. However, researchers at the Japan Geriatrics Society say something as simple as drinking a cup of coffee might help, too.
In a study published in the August 2021 issue of Geriatrics and Gerontology International, researchers examined over 6,000 people in Japan age 45 to 74 and found that those who drank coffee had a higher skeletal muscle mass and stronger grip strength than those who drank no coffee. The more coffee a person drank, the better they fared on these markers. The differences were small—women who drank three or more cups of coffee a day had 0.5 percent higher skeletal muscle mass than those who drank no coffee. Considering that women, on average, lose 0.4 percent of their skeletal muscle mass per year, the researchers argue that this data suggests that coffee has a preventative impact on age-related muscle loss.
Keep in mind that this data is from just one study. “[The] evidence is limited, and so more quality studies will need to be made,” says Ryan Balmes, DPT, a board-certified orthopedic and sports physical therapist and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association. “What can be done now based on solid evidence is regular exercise.”
Exercise has been long studied for its ability to hinder age-related muscle loss. “More specifically, resistance exercise can help muscle maintain or grow muscle mass through the lifespan,” says Dr. Balmes.
Sarah C. Smith PT, DPT, a board-certified physical therapist and geriatric specialist, says that delaying age-related muscle loss through measures like exercise can have a great impact on quality of life and personal safety.
“When we lose muscle mass it can become more difficult to complete tasks like getting out of a chair, climbing stairs, and walking,” says Dr. Smith. “This can snowball into inactivity, slower movements, loss of balance, falls, and frailty.”
If coffee is as beneficial as this study suggests, drinking it certainly won’t hurt. The study didn’t indicate the caffeine levels of the coffee the participants drank or if some of the individuals drank coffee with milk and-or sugar, which Dr. Smith says could negatively impact the benefits of drinking coffee. But remember: “Coffee alone should not replace physical activity and a healthy diet in managing age-related muscle loss,” says Dr. Smith.
Learn more about the benefits of coffee from a dietitian:
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