A recent study may have those at risk for rosacea racing to refill their coffee mugs: A team of Brown University researchers led by Dr. Wen-Qing Li found that the more caffeinated coffee women drank, the lower their risk was for developing rosacea.
The study analyzed data from 82,737 participants in the Nurses Health Study II, which has conducted a biennial survey to track the medical history and lifestyle practices of 116,000 American nurses since 1989. Among the participants, 4,945 were diagnosed with rosacea during the study period. When the researchers adjusted for other risk factors, such as smoking, alcohol and body mass index, an association between caffeinated coffee consumption and reduced risk of rosacea emerged.
As little as 100 mg of caffeine a day — or about the amount in an average 8-ounce cup of coffee — resulted in a 4 percent lower risk of rosacea, compared with those who drank less than a cup a month. Moreover, those who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had a 23 percent lower risk of developing the disorder.
Surprisingly, patients who drank decaffeinated coffee were not found to have a significantly altered risk for rosacea diagnosis. And while overall caffeine intake was found to be associated with decreased risk of rosacea, there was no significant correlation found between the consumption of other caffeinated substances like tea, soda or chocolate and rosacea risk.
The investigators speculated that coffee may cause the blood vessels in the face to constrict, lessening the visible signs of rosacea. They also noted that caffeine has been documented to have immunosuppressant and antioxidative properties, which may help decrease the inflammation of rosacea, and is known to modulate levels of hormones that may contribute to flare-ups.
Hot beverages such as coffee are a commonly reported trigger for rosacea flare-ups, and one study found that the temperature was to blame. Rosacea sufferers may want to let their coffee cool before drinking it, or opt for iced coffee instead.
“This is a very interesting finding, and for rosacea patients who enjoy their (not too hot) caffeinated coffee, this is reassuring,” said Dr. Rajani Katta, a dermatologist and the author of Glow: The Dermatologist’s Guide to a Whole Foods Younger Skin Diet. Dr. Katta recommended that rosacea sufferers keep three things in mind before they upped their coffee consumption.
“First, be careful with your coffee. You certainly don’t want it too hot, but you also have to make sure you’re not adding a lot of sugar and cream, because that can add up quickly and lead to other health effects. Second, some people are clearly far more sensitive to the effects of caffeine, so always keep that in mind,” she said. “And finally, make sure you have all of the basics of rosacea prevention down. This includes the use of sun protection and the use of strategies to prevent overheating, such as avoiding long hot showers. It also means that you need to really pay attention to food and beverage triggers for rosacea.”
In 2016, the National Rosacea Society awarded Dr. Li $25,000 as part of its research grants program to increase knowledge and understanding of the causes and other key aspects of rosacea that may lead to improvements in its management, prevention or potential cure. Dr. Li and colleagues are conducting a study to clarify how hormone use and hormone levels associated with menopause and during pregnancy may affect the risk of developing rosacea.
Li S, Chen ML, Drucker AM, et al. Association of caffeine intake and caffeinated coffee consumption with risk of incident rosacea in women. JAMA Dermatol 2018 Oct 17. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.3301 [Epub ahead of print]