If you have rosacea, there’s a good chance you’ve tried cutting back on a number of different foods you were concerned may trigger symptoms like reddened skin and acne-like bumps. However, if coffee was one of the things you were reluctantly limiting, you may want to welcome it back into your morning (and afternoon). According to a new report in the medical journal JAMA Dermatology, limiting coffee intake won’t prevent rosacea.
In a report titled "Association of Caffeine Intake and Caffeinated Coffee Consumption With Risk of Incident Rosacea In Women," researchers from Brown University's Department of Dermatology set out to answer the question, "Is there an association between risk of incident rosacea and caffeine intake, including from coffee consumption?” Out of nearly 83,000 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study II, an investigational cohort initiated in 1989, they identified 4,945 people with rosacea. Every four years through 2005, data was collected on the participants' coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate consumption, and the information was analyzed in 2017 and 2018.
"After adjustment for other risk factors, we found an inverse association between increased caffeine intake and risk of rosacea,” the study results read. And in fact, "A significant inverse association with risk of rosacea was also observed for caffeinated coffee consumption.” In other words, they found that women who consumed four or more cups of coffee a day had a lower risk of experiencing rosacea symptoms.
The study authors say caffeine’s effect on vascular function may contribute to this effect, and New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner agrees. "Because coffee contains high levels of caffeine, it may be useful in constricting blood vessels to improve the appearance of redness," he explains. "Decaffeinated coffee would likely not give the same benefit because of lower levels of caffeine."
However, it’s not just any caffeine that led to the rosacea-reducing effect in this study — only coffee. "We did not find a significant association between caffeinated tea or soda and risk of rosacea,” the report states. And sadly, their results suggest chocolate is a potential risk factor for rosacea.
The authors note that previous studies and reports have shown different results when it comes to caffeine or coffee intake and rosacea risk. "A case-control study from Poland reported increased risk of rosacea among coffee drinkers,” they write. In another randomized clinical trial, "participants with rosacea consumed caffeinated coffee and water at different temperatures. Caffeinated coffee was shown to have no effect on flushing in patients with rosacea, whereas heat led to flushing reactions."
Although the authors admit that further studies are required to explain the relationship between caffeine and rosacea, they’re confident they've found evidence that caffeinated coffee consumption is associated with a decreased risk of rosacea incidents. That said, Zeichner doesn't recommend suddenly downing gallons of piping-hot coffee. "Drinking coffee is not considered a first-line treatment for rosacea, and I still caution patients against hot beverages," he says. "If you were going to add coffee to your daily routine, make sure it is not too hot." So perhaps iced coffee is the way to go — even in cold months.
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