The internet has been trying to figure out the caffeine question for years: is it good for us? Is it bad for us? Will it stunt our growth? Will it prevent liver disease? Will coffee make us live forever?
A group of researchers from Alfaisal University in Saudi Arabia recently asked this question from a different angle. They presented a review at Psoriasis: From Gene to Clinic International Congress which points to another benefit of caffeine: psoriasis and atopic dermatitis relief.
Psoriasis and severe atopic dermatitis (also known as eczema) are both skin conditions that cause redness and itchiness. Although they have some similar symptoms, they’re different conditions. Psoriasis is an immune disorder, whereas atopic dermatitis is caused by a different mix of genetic and environmental factors. To learn more about psoriasis, click here, and to learn more about severe atopic dermatitis, click here.
Unfortunately, this research did not study the effects of drinking caffeine on psoriasis, but applying it to skin via a topical ointment. There were actually some earlier studies back in the 1970s that already demonstrated the potential of this treatment, but the buzz around the subject died down, leaving the area forgotten.
The new study followed 39 patients who had psoriasis, and took an experimental topical treatment with 10% caffeine. They showed significant improvement compared the placebo group. They also didn’t show any major side effects, besides mild itching.
The review suggested that the treatment worked like this: patients with dermatitis and psoriasis have low levels of intracellular cAMP in their cutaneous leucocytes. Since caffeine is a methylxanthine, which consequently makes it a phosphodiesterase inhibitor, it brings the intracellular cAMP levels back up– this helps suppress the inflammatory pathways responsible for these skin conditions.
Caffeine also impacts cell death pathways– it’s anti-necrotic and proapoptotic, which might also help it reduce inflammation. Basically, it stops cells from dying premature necrotic deaths, but it also promotes the death and shedding of damaged cells. It also works as an anti-oxidant. These qualities have actually made it a rising facial make up ingredient for the past few years.
Right now, dermatitis and psoriasis are often treated with corticosteroids topical ointments. This can bring some unpleasant side effects, and doesn’t work for everyone. It’s also more expensive, and not great for longterm use. While more research is needed, caffeine looks like a promising new alternative.
Read more about it in Dermatology Times.