Drinking coffee may help reduce the risk of falls

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Research suggests that drinking more than one cup of coffee per day is associated with better gait in older adults

29th July 2015: New research1 published today in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that consuming more than one cup of coffee per day is associated with better gait – an important health indicator that relates to the risk of falling, morbidity and mortality, and is influenced by the nervous and cardiovascular systems, as well as musculoskeletal structure. The research, conducted at the Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, investigated associations of alcohol, coffee and tobacco consumption with gait, using 2546 participants from The Rotterdam Study with a median age of 68 years.

The research findings add to the number of possible beneficial health effects of coffee consumption that are already widely reported. Previous studies looking at gait and coffee consumption have focused mainly on heavy alcohol drinkers, whilst this study examined the association between coffee consumption and gait in a general community-based older population.

Co-author Dr. Arfan Ikram commented “Until now, research into the impact of coffee consumption on gait has looked at specific groups and has therefore not provided information on the associations of overall coffee consumption with gait. With this study, we wanted to explore the associations of coffee consumption on gait to assess the beneficial, or detrimental, effects of coffee on general health.”

The European Commission has acknowledged that one in three people over 65 have a serious fall, mostly in their home, and the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing has as specific action group devoted to fall prevention2. The impact of falls can result in injuries such as hip fractures and head trauma and often signal the end of independent living for many. Progression and research into gait is much needed given that there are nearly 40,000 deaths from falls among elderly in the EU-27 Region3.

The study, which is part of the wider ‘Rotterdam Study’, used a large population-based sample of 2546 non-demented community-based participants with a median age of 68 years and includes all patients who underwent gait assessments between March 2009 and March 2012. Coffee consumption was assessed as part of a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. Gait was assessed using a 5.79 metre long electronic walkway, with participants performing three walking conditions: normal walk, turn and tandem walk in which people walked heel-to-toe over a line. Their gait was assessed against the criteria of gait velocity, Global Gait; the average of seven gait domains: Rhythm, Phases, Variability, Pace, Tandem, Turning and Base of Support.

The results showed that consuming more than one cup of coffee daily was associated with better gait when compared to drinking one or less cups of coffee. Specifically, consuming one to three cups of coffee daily was associated with higher Pace (or length of stride) and consuming more than three cups daily with better Variability in stride length, Pace and Turning time compared with consuming one or less than one cup of coffee.   Such effects may have important implications on the risk of falling in older populations.

Funding for this research was provided by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC), a non-profit organisation, devoted to the study and disclosure of science related to coffee and health.


1 V J A Verlinden et al. (2015) The associations of alcohol, coffee, and tobacco consumption with gait in a community-dwelling population. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published online ahead of print. Available at: http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ejcn2015120a.html

2 European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (2013). ACTION PLAN A2 on Specific Action on innovation in support of ‘Personalized health management, starting with a Falls Prevention Initiative’. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/research/innovation-union/pdf/active-healthy-ageing/a2_action_plan.pdf#view=fit&pagemode=none

3 Sethi D. et al. (2006) Injuries and violence in Europe. Why they matter and what can be done. Copenhagen, WHO Regional Office for Europe. Available at: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/98762/E88037.pdf

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