THOSE CUPS OF COFFEE that you drink every day to keep alert appear to have an extra perk – especially if you’re an older adult. A recent study monitored the memory and thinking processes of people older than 65. It was found that all those with higher blood caffeine levels avoided the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in the two-to-four years of study follow-up.
Researchers from the University of South Florida and the University of Miami say the study provides the first direct evidence that caffeine/ coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of dementia or delayed onset. “These intriguing results suggest that older adults with mild memory impairment who drink moderate levels of coffee – about 3 cups a day – will not convert to Alzheimer’s disease – or at least will experience a substantial delay before converting to Alzheimer’s,” said study lead author Dr. Chuanhai Cao, a neuroscientist at the USF College of Pharmacy.
The study shows this protection probably occurs even in older people with early signs of the disease, called mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. Patients with MCI already experience some short-term memory loss and initial Alzheimer’s pathology in their brains. Each year, about 15 percent of MCI patients progress to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease. Blood caffeine levels at the study’s onset were substantially lower (51 percent less) in participants diagnosed with MCI who progressed to dementia during the two-to-four-year follow-up than in those whose mild cognitive impairment remained stable over the same period.
No one with MCI who later developed Alzheimer’s had initial blood caffeine levels above a critical level of 1200 ng/ml. This is equivalent to drinking several cups of coffee a few hours before the blood sample was drawn.
In contrast, many with stable MCI had blood caffeine levels higher than this critical level. “We found that 100 percent of the MCI patients with plasma caffeine levels above the critical level experienced no conversion to Alzheimer’s disease during the two-to-four year follow-up period,” said study co-author Dr. Gary Arendash. “We are not saying that moderate coffee consumption will completely protect people from Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Cao cautioned. “However, we firmly believe that moderate coffee consumption can appreciably reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s or delay its onset.”
A Cup a Day
“Moderate daily consumption of caffeinated coffee appears to be the best dietary option for long-term protection against Alzheimer’s memory loss,” Dr. Arendash said. “Coffee is inexpensive, readily available, easily gets into the brain, and has few side-effects for most of us. Moreover, our studies show that caffeine and coffee appear to directly attack the Alzheimer’s disease process.”
In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, moderate caffeine/coffee intake appears to reduce the risk of several other diseases of aging, including Parkinson’s disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, and breast cancer. A study tracking the health and coffee consumption of more than 400,000 older adults for 13 years found that coffee drinkers reduced their risk of dying from heart disease, lung disease, pneumonia, stroke, diabetes, infections, and even injuries and accidents. I think we all need to make our local barista our new best friend. Right, Now. ■
There’s even more good news about coffee. Read about it here.