First Study to Assess the Impact of Caffeine on Lupus Disease Activity, Steroid Use, and other Lupus Clinical Measures
In people with lupus, caffeine consumption may help reduce disease activity, in terms of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index 2000 (SLEDAI-2K) values and cytokine levels. Cytokines are proteins released by cells that have an effect on the interactions, communications or behavior of cells, and include molecules that trigger inflammation and response to infections. Moreover, persons with lupus with a low caffeine consumption seem to have a more severe disease phenotype.
Caffeine has shown to interact with multiple components of the immune system by acting as a non-specific phosphodiesterase inhibitor, lowering the levels of inflammation-related genes in blood cells. The disease activity and caffeine intake of a group of 89 people with lupus was studied. Caffeine intake was evaluated by a 7-day food frequency questionnaire, including all the main sources of caffeine. The group was divided into four sub-groups according to their daily caffeine intake – <29.1 mg/day (group 1), 29.2–153.7 mg/day (group 2), 153.8–376.5 mg/day (group 3) and >376.6 mg/day (group 4) – and blood samples were collected from each to assess their cytokine levels. On average, one cup of brewed coffee (8 oz) contains about 95 mg of caffeine. The researchers discovered:
- Low caffeine intake was associated with more frequent major organ involvement – such as renal and neuropsychiatric manifestations. Higher prevalence of lupus nephritis, neuropsychiatric involvement, hematological manifestations, hypocomplementemia and anti-dsDNA positivity was observed.
- Persons with a low intake of caffeine were more frequently treated with glucocorticoids.
- Those with a high intake of caffeine showed lower serum levels of cytokines IFNα, IL-17 and IL-6, an indication of lower disease activity.
To date, there is no conclusive data available about the possible contribution of diet in lupus development and clinical observations; however, this is the first study in lupus to suggest that caffeine may impact disease activity and clinical activity in people with lupus. Learn about diet and nutrition with lupus.