An investigation into coffee’s link to muscle mass

The inevitable loss of strength and movement is one of the not-so-fun side consequences of ageing. This is due in part to sarcopenia, or the normal loss of muscle that occurs over time. Staying active and exercising consistently are the best ways to slow down the ageing process. However, according to researchers from the Japan Geriatrics Society, even something as easy as sipping a cup of coffee can assist.

Researchers analysed nearly 6,000 persons in Japan aged 45 to 74 in a study published in the August 2021 issue of Geriatrics and Gerontology International, and discovered that those who drank coffee had larger skeletal muscle mass and stronger grip strength than those who did not. The more coffee a person consumed, the better their results on these tests were. Women who drank three or more cups of coffee per day had 0.5 percent more skeletal muscle mass than women who did not drink coffee. Given that women lose 0.4 percent of their skeletal muscle mass each year on average, the researchers believe that this data implies that coffee can help prevent age-related muscle loss.

Keep in mind that this information comes from a single study. “The data is minimal,” says Ryan Balmes, DPT, an orthopaedic and sports physical therapist and representative for the American Physical Therapy Association. “Regular exercise is what can be done now based on good facts.”

Exercise’s capacity to prevent age-related muscle loss has long been examined. Dr. Balmes explains, “More specifically, resistance exercise can help muscle maintain or build muscle mass throughout the lifespan.”

Delaying age-related muscle loss by measures like exercise, according to Sarah C. Smith PT, DPT, a board-certified physical therapist and geriatric specialist, can have a significant influence on quality of life and personal safety.

“It can be more difficult to execute tasks like getting out of a chair, climbing stairs, and walking when we lose muscle mass,” adds Dr. Smith. “Inactivity, slower movements, loss of balance, falls, and fragility can all result from this.”

Drinking coffee won’t hurt if it’s as beneficial as this study implies. The study didn’t mention how much caffeine was in the coffee the people drank, or whether some of them drank it with milk or sugar, which Dr. Smith believes could reduce the advantages of coffee. But, as Dr. Smith points out, “coffee alone should not be used to replace physical activity and a good diet in the management of age-related muscle loss.”

Learn more about the benefits of coffee from a dietitian:

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