While coffee has strong anti-oxidant properties, a new study shows it may be bad for wound healing.

There are many elements that affect how efficiently wounds heal, from the body’s glucose levels to harmful bacteria that can cause wound infection. As doctors and scientists continue to make new discoveries and advancements in this branch of medicine, the list of items that are harmful and beneficial grows. Now, researchers have found an everyday substance long known to have strong anti-oxidant properties may hinder the wound healing process: caffeine.

About caffeine

As many people know, caffeine, found in coffee, tea and many other beverages, has a wide variety of benefits for the body. That may be part of the reason why, according to the AARP, 90 percent of Americans consume some form of caffeine on a daily basis. Like any other drug, too much can be harmful to the body, but in moderate amounts (one or two 5-ounce cups of coffee according to the Federal Drug Administration), it can have great positive effects. Caffeine can boost mood, lower the risk of stroke among older women and even reduce the chance of developing dementia.

Many of its benefits stem from the fact that caffeine is a purine alkaloid. It’s comprised of metabolites called xanthine and theobromine that have powerful anti-oxidant capacities, which can help enhance the immune system and stave off wound infection. However, until a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of the West Indies, there was little known about how caffeine affects the wound healing process.

About the study

The study was published in the July 2014 International Wound Journal and looked into the way caffeine affects epithelialization, the process by which dermal cells spread over the wound surface and provide cover for new tissue. For this analysis, the scientists used a primary keratinocyte (a cell type that is predominant in the skin) as well as a model of human skin. They tested the way seven different dosages of caffeine interacted with the dermis in terms of cellular proliferation, adhesion and migration, all of which are essential parts of the wound healing stages.

The results showed caffeine restricted cellular proliferation of keratinocytes and delayed cell migration over the wound surface, thereby impeding epithelialization and hindering the wound healing process, Additionally, these researchers found the amount of caffeine consumed was a major factor – the more caffeine, the slower the wound healed.

Avoiding caffeine

With these results in hand, those recovering from wounds may want to cut down their consumption of caffeine. Avoiding this mild stimulant may be difficult, as it is one of the most widely ingested drugs in the world. But there are other ways to get a boost of energy. Ginkgo Biloba, for example, has been used for centuries to enhance focus and vitality, and research has suggested it may be beneficial to the wound healing process, according to the National Institutes of Health. Other natural remedies that may provide a healthy boost of energy include ginseng and vitamin B.

Advanced Tissue is the nation’s leader in delivering specialized wound care supplies to patients, delivering to both homes and long-term care facilities.