Drinking coffee or tea may be beneficial for physical function in ageing

NUS | National University of Singapore

A Singapore study has shown that adults, who consumed higher intake of caffeine via the drinking of coffee or tea, had significantly better physical function at late life.

This study, led by Professor Koh Woon Puay from the Healthy Longevity Translational Research Programme at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (NUS Medicine), was conducted based on information collected from over 12,000 participants, aged 45 to 74 years old, in the Singapore Chinese Health Study, over a follow-up period of 20 years.

Coffee and tea were found to be the main sources of caffeine intake in this cohort, accounting for 84% and 12% of total caffeine, respectively.

A total of 68.5% of the participants drank coffee daily. In this group, 52.9% of them drank one cup a day, 42.2% consumed two to three cups per day while the remaining 4.9% drank four or more cups per day.

Study participants were therefore classified into four categories based on their coffee intake – non-daily drinkers, a cup per day, two to three cups per day and four or more cups per day. Tea drinkers were classified into four categories according to their frequencies: never, at least once a month, at least once a week, and daily drinkers.

The results showed that drinking coffee, black tea or green tea at midlife were independently associated with significantly reduced likelihood of physical frailty at late life.

Participants who drank four or more cups of coffee per day had significantly reduced odds of physical frailty at late life, compared to participants who did not drink coffee daily. Participants who drank black tea, green tea daily also had significantly reduced odds of physical frailty, compared to non-tea drinkers. 

Higher caffeine intake was associated with lower odds of physical frailty, regardless of the source of caffeine.  Amongst the four components of physical frailty, the associations were stronger for the measured tests of handgrip strength and TUG, than for the self-reported measures of weight loss and exhaustion.  

 “Coffee and tea are mainstay beverages in many societies around the world, including Singapore. Our studies show that consumption of these caffeinated drinks at midlife may be associated with a reduced likelihood of physical frailty in late life. However, further studies are still needed to confirm these longitudinal associations, and to investigate if these effects on physical frailty are mediated by caffeine or other chemical compounds.” Prof Koh added.

This study was published on 21 July 2023 in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association (JAMDA).

Read the media release here.