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A study by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that a combination of exercise and caffeinated water reduced the effects of ultra violet radiation by up to 400% in experimental mice.
The research, undertaken at Rutgers University, was a follow up to earlier research suggesting that caffeine increases apoptosis, a process which the body uses to get ride of damaged and cancerous cells by killing them off. It’s sometimes referred to as “cell suicide”, but it’s really just the process by which cells die of ‘old age’. The body sheds about a million cells a second as they complete their life cycle and are no longer needed. Many cancers are caused when something breaks the sequence of events leading to apoptosis, and damaged cells become, essentially, immortal.
To study the effects of caffeine on apoptosis, researchers led by Dr. Allen Conney of Rutgers University used a specially bred strain of hairless mice. Some of the mice were fed caffeinated water. Some of them were put on an exercise wheel. Some were both given the water AND put on the exercise wheel. All the mice were then exposed to a UV lamp at levels which should have invoked a cancerous response in the mice’s skin cells.
The mice were then tested to determine the levels of a chemical that is linked to the amount of apoptosis taking place. Those levels were compared to the blood levels of mice who got no caffeine and no exercise, but did get to sun-bathe under the UV lamps.
Mice that drank caffeine but didn’t exercise had an average 95% increase in apoptosis. Mice exercising but not drinking caffeine had a 120% increase. The mice that drank caffeine and then exercised showed an amazing 400% increase in apoptosis, suggesting that caffeine and exercise together have a synergistic effect.
The study suggest that caffeine and exercise in combination could help protect from skin cancer and other cancers by enhancing apoptosis, however, there are warnings from medical professionals and scientists. First, the study was carried out in mice. There is no research yet to suggest that humans will see the same benefits. In addition, they caution people that drinking a cup of coffee and going out to exercise isn’t a substitute for sunscreen.
Finally, doctors caution that caffeine does affect your heart rate. Anyone who is considering adding heavily caffeinated drinks to their exercise regimes should be certain that they don’t have a pre-existing heart problem.