Monday, June 25, 2012

The Caffeine-Dementia Link: More Good News About Coffee

Have you ever had the experience of waking up foggy, drinking a cup of coffee---and literally feeling your brain and your nerve endings wake up and become alert to the world? I’m almost certain that most, if not all, coffee-drinkers are familiar with this sensation. The good news is that coffee not only makes you “smarter” but it also protects the brain from developing dementia.

I love coffee. Summer is an excellent time to drink coffee, including iced coffee drinks, as well as reliable hot mugs of coffee. The important thing is that the benefits remain, regardless of the season. Recently scientists explored yet another benefit of coffee. It turns out that caffeine consumption reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

In a study of adults over age 65 with mild cognitive impairment---generally considered a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease---those with higher caffeine blood levels avoided developing Alzheimer’s or at least had delayed progression. Note that these results are based on 2 to 4 years of follow up. 

According to the lead investigator, Dr. Chuanhai Cao, a neuroscientist at the University of South Florida, “The results from this study, along with our earlier studies in Alzheimer’s mice are very consistent in indicating that moderate daily caffeine/coffee intake through adulthood should appreciably protect against Alzheimer’s disease in later life. “

That is truly groundbreaking news! The truth really does lie in the data. No one with mild cognitive impairment who went on to develop Alzheimer’s had initial blood caffeine levels above a critical level of 1,200 ng/mL---equivalent to drinking several cups of a coffee a few hours before having a blood sample taken. However, 100% of patients with mild cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study who had caffeine blood plasma levels about the critical level DID NOT develop Alzheimer’s disease.
The takeaway: Coffee consumption---even moderate consumption---decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease appreciably. That’s another reason to appreciate coffee---and all of its health benefits…Happy summer!