The Connection Between Caffeine & Asthma

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Several categories of medications are used to treat asthma. Caffeine is in the category that decreases inflammation and relaxes the smooth muscles. Researchers have found that a simple cup of coffee can relax the smooth muscles in the bronchi airways of the lungs a little. A larger dose, however, is as effective as an inhaler.

How Caffeine Works
Methylxanthines are one type of asthma medication; they include theobromine, theophylline and caffeine. Theobromine is primarily derived from cocoa, theophylline is from tea, while the main source of caffeine is coffee. Pharmacologists hypothesize that all methylxanthines, including caffeine, work because they interfere with a certain protein that causes the smooth muscles to relax, and they decrease inflammation, explains Homer Boushey, MD, Chief of the Asthma Clinical Research Center in "Basic & Clinical Pharmacology."

Caffeine and Asthma
These medications also affect the heart, kidneys, skeletal muscle, brain and spinal cord. Out of the three medications, caffeine affects the brain and spinal cord the most. According to Dr. Boushey in "Basic & Clinical Pharmacology," the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee, approximately 100 mg, is enough to open the bronchi airways of asthmatics just a little; however, the amount of caffeine needed to effectively open their airways can cause tremors and nervousness.

Caffeine and the Symptoms of Asthma
Timothy Mickleborough, Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University, wrote about a study in which he concluded that taking caffeine within one hour of exercising can lower the symptoms of the exercise-induced form of asthma. Furthermore, the investigators determined that although 3 to 6 mg of caffeine per kilogram of weight lowers the symptoms, 9 mg per kilogram was as efficient as an albuterol inhaler, a common treatment for asthma.

Caffeine and Lung Function Tests
While the study at Indiana University only involved 10 people, in the January 2010 issue of the "Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews," Emma Welsh writes about seven different studies on the connection between caffeine and asthma, which involved a total of 75 asthmatics. The Cochrane group of researchers concluded that caffeine opens the airways somewhat for as much as four hours and because of this, asthmatics taking a lab test to see how well their lungs are functioning, should not consume any caffeine for four hours before testing.

Sourced:, 5 April 2011

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