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Higher habitual dietary caffeine consumption is related to lower experimental pain sensitivity in a community-based sample

Abstract

Rationale

Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world. Caffeine administered acutely in a laboratory environment or as a medication adjuvant has known properties that help alleviate pain. However, much less is known about the potential impact of habitual dietary caffeine consumption on the experience of pain.

Objectives

The primary objective of this observational study was to determine whether caffeine consumed habitually as part of a daily diet was associated with experimental pain sensitivity using noxious stimuli in a non-clinical sample of 62 community-dwelling adults between 19 and 77 years old.

Methods

Study participants monitored their daily dietary caffeine consumption (e.g., coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate) across a period of seven consecutive days using a caffeine consumption diary. On the seventh day of caffeine consumption monitoring, participants presented to the laboratory to complete experimental pain sensitivity testing. Noxious thermal and mechanical stimuli were used to obtain threshold and tolerance for painful heat and pressure, respectively.

Results

Data analysis revealed that greater self-reported daily caffeine consumption was significantly associated with higher heat pain threshold (β = .296, p = .038), higher heat pain tolerance (β = .242, p = .046), and higher pressure pain threshold (β = .277, p = .049) in multiple regression models adjusted for covariates.

Conclusions

Results of this study completed with community-dwelling adults revealed that individuals who habitually consume greater amounts of caffeine as part of their daily diets demonstrate diminished sensitivity to painful stimuli in a laboratory setting.

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Funding

Financial support for this research was provided by the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health Services Research Training Program, T32HS013852 (D.S.O.), NIH/NIA Health Disparities Research Pilot Award through the Deep South Resource Center for Minority Aging Research (RCMAR), P30AG031054, and NIH/NIMHD Grant R01MD010441 (B.R.G.).

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Burel R. Goodin.

Ethics declarations

This study was approved by the local Institutional Review Board and carried out in accordance with guidelines for the ethical conduct of research.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Overstreet, D.S., Penn, T.M., Cable, S.T. et al. Higher habitual dietary caffeine consumption is related to lower experimental pain sensitivity in a community-based sample. Psychopharmacology 235, 3167–3176 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-018-5016-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-018-5016-3

Keywords

  • Caffeine
  • Dietary consumption
  • Pain sensitivity
  • Threshold
  • Tolerance