A cup of coffee a day may keep retinal damage away

Coffee drinkers, rejoice! Aside from java’s energy jolt, food scientists say you may reap another health benefit from a daily cup of joe: prevention of deteriorating eyesight and possible blindness from retinal degeneration due to glaucoma, aging and diabetes.

Raw coffee is, on average, just 1 percent caffeine, but it contains 7 to 9 percent chlorogenic acid (CLA), a strong antioxidant that prevents retinal degeneration in mice, according to a Cornell study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (December 2013).

The retina is a thin tissue layer on the inside, back wall of the eye with millions of light-sensitive cells and other nerve cells that receive and organize visual information. It is also one of the most metabolically active tissues, demanding high levels of oxygen and making it prone to oxidative stress. The lack of oxygen and production of free radicals leads to tissue damage and loss of sight.

In the study, mice eyes were treated with nitric oxide, which creates oxidative stress and free radicals, leading to retinal degeneration, but mice pretreated with CLA developed no retinal damage.

The study is “important in understanding functional foods, that is, natural foods that provide beneficial health effects,” said Chang Y. Lee, professor of food science and the study’s senior author. Holim Jang, a graduate student in Lee’s lab, is the paper’s lead author. Lee’s lab has been working with Sang Hoon Jung, a researcher at the Functional Food Center of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea. “Coffee is the most popular drink in the world, and we are understanding what benefit we can get from that,” Lee said.

Previous studies have shown that coffee also cuts the risk of such chronic diseases as Parkinson’s, prostate cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and age-related cognitive declines.

Since scientists know that CLA and its metabolites are absorbed in the human digestive system, the next step for this research is to determine whether drinking coffee facilitates CLA to cross a membrane known as the blood-retinal barrier. If drinking coffee proves to deliver CLA directly into the retina, doctors may one day recommend an appropriate brew to prevent retinal damage. Also, if future studies further prove CLA’s efficacy, then synthetic compounds could also be developed and delivered with eye drops. The Korea Institute of Science and Technology funded the study.

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Have a question? Let us know.


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43 thoughts on “A cup of coffee a day may keep retinal damage away”

  1. Interesting, I’m just wondering if all types of coffee contains the same amount of CLA? In our household of 4 we all wear glasses, even though we all have different coffee preferences. If this discovery is true, why do some people that drinks a lot of coffee, like me, still wear glasses ?

  2. Looking at the title of the blog, I was hoping to have an excuse for my ‘4 cups a day’ coffee drinking diet. Even though the CLA found in coffee is useful now, i believe the cons out weigh the pros of long term caffeinated coffee drinking. I must say that it did help me answer a question i always asked myself: Why do i have better eyesight than everyone at home?
    Once they are able to synthesize the compound, I do not believe they will have the same positive outlook on coffee but it may be seen as good medium of delivery of CLA especially in areas that do not have the proper facilities to administer the eye drops. Advertising companies will be able to use this info to their advantage.

  3. I can’t help but wonder if this will benefit all individuals to the same extent…I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t wear glasses just because they drink coffee everyday.Still this just goes to show how little we know about foods that we have been using for ages.More research should definitly be done.I agree with my fellow students that coffee should still be dranked within moderation,one can’t forget all the side-effects of too much coffee just because:” Drinking coffee will maybe improve my eye sight…”

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