June 05, 2012
Coffee Cuts Alzheimer's Disease Risk

Not really a new story. But here's more evidence for the protective effects of coffee. Caffeine and/or other chemicals in coffee cut the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease risk.

Tampa, FL (June 4, 2012) 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 monitoring the memory and thinking processes of people older than 65 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. Moreover, coffee appeared to be the major or only source of caffeine for these individuals.

Researchers from the University of South Florida (www.usf.edu) and the University of Miami (www.miami.edu)say the case control study provides the first direct evidence that caffeine/coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of dementia or delayed onset. Their findings will appear in the online version of an article to be published June 5 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, published by IOS Press (http://health.usf.edu/nocms/publicaffairs/now/pdfs/JAD111781.pdf). The collaborative study involved 124 people, ages 65 to 88, in Tampa and Miami.

Speaking as someone who is not a coffee fan: How else to get the benefit? See the bottom of the post for hints on how coffee delivers this benefit. It is a synergistic effect between caffeine and something else in coffee.

Maybe older adults with mild memory impairment ought to start heavy coffee drinkingn.

"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 (http://health.usf.edu/nocms/pharmacy/) and the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute (http://health.usf.edu/nocms/byrd/). "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 throughout adulthood should appreciably protect against Alzheimer's disease later in life."

It is amazing that a beverage that humans have been drinking for over a thousand years can deliver more brain protection benefit than any drug so far devised by the pharmaceutical industry and academic researchers.

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. The researchers focused on study participants with MCI, because many were destined to develop Alzheimer's within a few years.

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.

Sounds like some pretty heavy coffee drinking is needed for maximum benefit.

No one with MCI who later developed Alzheimer's had initial blood caffeine levels above a critical level of 1200 ng/ml 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.

Coffee cuts other disease risks.

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. However, supporting studies for these benefits have all been observational (uncontrolled), and controlled clinical trials are needed to definitively demonstrate therapeutic value.

A study tracking the health and coffee consumption of more than 400,000 older adults for 13 years, and published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that coffee drinkers reduced their risk of dying from heart disease, lung disease, pneumonia, stroke, diabetes, infections, and even injuries and accidents.

In 2011 this same USF research group showed that at least in mice caffeine and some other component(s) of coffee act to boost cytokines and their results suggest boosting these cytokines causes the benefit.

. In both AβPPsw+PS1 transgenic mice and non-transgenic littermates, acute i.p. treatment with caffeinated coffee greatly and specifically increased plasma levels of granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (GCSF), IL-10, and IL-6. Neither caffeine solution alone (which provided high plasma caffeine levels) or decaffeinated coffee provided this effect, indicating that caffeine synergized with some as yet unidentified component of coffee to selectively elevate these three plasma cytokines. The increase in GCSF is particularly important because long-term treatment with coffee (but not decaffeinated coffee) enhanced working memory in a fashion that was associated only with increased plasma GCSF levels among all cytokines. Since we have previously reported that long-term GCSF treatment enhances cognitive performance in AD mice through three possible mechanisms (e.g., recruitment of microglia from bone marrow, synaptogenesis, and neurogenesis), the same mechanisms could be complimentary to caffeine's established ability to suppress Aβ production. We conclude that coffee may be the best source of caffeine to protect against AD because of a component in coffee that synergizes with caffeine to enhance plasma GCSF levels, resulting in multiple therapeutic actions against AD.

We need other ways to boost these cytokines. Anyone familiar with the research literature who knows other ways to do this?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 June 05 09:18 PM  Aging Diet Brain Studies


Comments
PacRim Jim said at June 5, 2012 11:42 PM:

I cannot believe that coffee's effect is identical for every genome and epigenome.
Until we have personalized medicine and sophisticated software that models individuals, it will be impossible to be certain of the effect of anything consumed.

Radford Neal said at June 6, 2012 6:24 AM:

Rather than a synergistic effect of caffeine and some other substance in coffee, the results in the last quoted passage could be consistent with the effect being due to some substance in coffee other than caffeine that is also removed in the decaffeination process.

Russ said at June 6, 2012 6:31 AM:

Old folks who have a serious caffeine habit have likely had a serious caffeine habit for a very long time. There's a good chance they may be drinking *less* of other things, as well -- I'm a coffee achiever, for instance, and most of the folks I know like me are very light on alcohol consumption,and *tend* to even be fairly light on sugary stuff, as well (though the experience of espresso drinkers like myself certainly wouldn't map to people who drink the foofy "diabetes in a cup" megasugary Starbucks-type syrup drinks).

Black Death said at June 6, 2012 6:41 AM:

Caffeine is a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger (http://phys.org/news/2011-05-evidence-caffeine-healthful-antioxidant-coffee.html), which may help with Alzheimer's and possibly cancer and age-related changes. It may also help prevent Parkinson's disease. Caffeine is metabolized primarily by N-3 demethylation to paraxanthine by the CYP1A2 pathway in the liver (first order kinetics). There is evidence for some genetic variability in metabolism. (http://www.pharmgkb.org/pathway/PA165884757)

Kai Jones said at June 6, 2012 8:57 AM:

But it smells nasty and tastes worse.

LoboSolo said at June 8, 2012 2:21 PM:

I think coffee smells good but tastes awful. I remember reading that caffeine leaches calcium.

coggieguy said at June 11, 2012 1:17 PM:

Alzheimers' smells bad and tastes worse. Enough half and half and some equal can even make Starbucks palatable.

willis said at June 11, 2012 1:49 PM:

I wonder if green tea has been tested for a similar effect.

TTT said at June 11, 2012 1:57 PM:

Question :

Does it have to be ground coffee from the beans itself, or instant coffee.

I love coffee. I drink it black without sugar.

Primal Man said at June 11, 2012 1:59 PM:

I'd be interested in finding an alternate path to boost these cytokines as well. When I drink coffee it triggers horrible IBS and I end up on the toilet all day. Taking caffeine pills does not produce this effect, so it is something else in the coffee causing this unfortunate result.

Porkypine said at June 11, 2012 2:10 PM:

If coffee smells good but tastes awful to you, you're probably making it wrong.

Good quality fresh coffee beans, freshly ground, help; most cheap US coffee starts out as floor sweepings, and all coffee goes downhill fast stored in air at room temperature. Keep the beans frozen, and if you must grind in batches, put a few day's worth in a sealed container and refrigerate.

But the biggest difference is in the brewing. Coffee should NEVER be boiled, period. Brew it with water ten or fifteen degrees short of boiling, then drink it right away (or reheat carefully later with a microwave), do NOT leave it sitting on a heater. And then occasionally, when you get everything right, it'll taste fully as good as it smells, and the rest of the time "almost as good as it smells" is still pretty good.

If fresh ground coffee also smells awful to you, well, no accounting for tastes!

anthropic said at June 11, 2012 2:46 PM:

Freezing is good if you don't plan on using the whole bean for several weeks. Otherwise, I think you do better not to freeze, as you lose some of the essential oils. Also, if you do freeze, I recommend you take out the beans you plan to grind in advance, so they will be near room temp when you grind them. Better flavor, in my experience.

Also, I have read that the carcinogens in coffee are best filtered out by paper. Tastes less bitter than a french press, too!

Snorri Godhi said at June 11, 2012 2:47 PM:

Thanks to Porkypine for the tip about brewing, though I am not sure how to keep the brewing temperature exactly between 10 and 15 degrees (Celsius?) below boiling.

Thanks also to Black Death for mentioning genetic variability in metabolism: that might explain why I become aggressively argumentative, or just aggressive, when I drink too much coffee. At even higher levels, coffee gives me tachycardia, and if I drink it after lunch I wake up in the middle of the night (no kidding!)

All what I can contribute is a suggestion: eat some dark chocolate while drinking coffee, to combine the beneficial effects.

ken said at June 11, 2012 2:50 PM:

What's the incidence of Mormons getting Alzheimers? They don't drink coffee.

Bob said at June 11, 2012 3:41 PM:

I just got a Keurig and like the coffee it produces even using the Starbucks K-cups. I much prefer Peet's to Starbuck store brewed coffee though. Also, it should be noted that coffee can contribute to other health issues as someone noted above which for me was GERD.

Porkypine said at June 11, 2012 4:10 PM:

Snorri - It's not a precise number, just somewhere around 200F, give or take. I use a one-cup cone coffee maker with a paper filter (so I'm always drinking fresh) and try to catch the kettle when it sounds like it's a bit short of boiling - if it does come to a full boil, I set it on a cold burner for a short time before pouring it over the grounds.

The one other key I forgot to mention is, a clean coffeemaker. Nasty old oils can easily build up on an uncleaned coffeemaker and ruin every cup. Rule of thumb there is, if you can smell old coffee on it before you start, it needs cleaning. Just a quick rinse in hot water will do, unless crud has really built up.

It's all a bit of extra work, but I find personally that good coffee gives me a more clear-headed alertness - bad coffee wakes me up too, but the effect is anywhere from a bit more irritable/distractable to an outright headache. Further anecdotal support for the effects of coffee being more complex than just a shot of caffeine: The one time I tried a high-caffeine cola as a substitute (it was "Jolt Cola", a long time ago) the results felt radically different - very high on the irritability/distractability scale.

Seeing that three cups a day seems to protect against forgetfulness progressing to Alzheimer's is a bonus - obviously I'd be drinking the stuff anyway...

caracoid said at June 11, 2012 5:05 PM:

I put down three to four cups first thing in the morning to shock myself awake. Hope the maximum benefit isn't achieved by stretching out the dosage over the course of a day.

Mike H. said at June 11, 2012 5:34 PM:

What Willis said!

RebeccaH said at June 11, 2012 7:02 PM:

Alzheimer's runs in my family, and yet they were all coffee drinkers (and not moderate about it either). How does this study explain that?

P norton said at June 13, 2012 3:41 AM:

Coffees role in producing bowel movements and thus removing toxins that cause alziemers may explain it's beneficial qualities more than what is in it

lzoraw said at June 29, 2012 2:21 PM:

I'm wondering if cold brew has the same beneficial compounds. I switched to cold brewing a couple of months ago and can't imagine going back. 70 percent less acid and so smooth and chocolatey tasting. Any info or speculation on the subject?

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