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Orlando Sentinel – Coffee may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, study finds

Posted by 4love2love on June 24, 2011

Coffee and Alzheimer'sThe USF team is excited that coffee, which is cheap and readily available, might be a safe way for Americans to protect their brains against the disease. (Anacleto Rapping / Los Angeles Times)


By Linda Shrieves, Orlando Sentinel12:08 p.m. EDT, June 22, 2011

Coffee lovers, raise your cup to the latest research on the benefits of your favorite beverage. Researchers at the University of South Florida say there’s a mystery ingredient in coffee that could protect coffee drinkers againstAlzheimer’s disease.

Using mice bred with symptoms that mimic Alzheimer’s disease, a team at USF found that caffeinated coffee appeared to protect the mice from the memory-robbing disease.

In a study to be published June 28 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the researchers say coffee seems to have an unidentified ingredient that combines with caffeine to reduce brain levels of beta-amyloid — the abnormal protein that is thought to cause the disease.

The study was funded by the Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the state of Florida.
The USF team’s findings about coffee seem to agree with previous observational studies, which found that people who drink caffeinated coffee in mid-life and older age have a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Armed with their latest study, the USF team is excited that coffee, which is cheap and readily available, might be a safe way for Americans to protect their brains against the disease.

“Because Alzheimer’s starts in the brain several decades before it is diagnosed, any protective therapy would obviously need to be taken for decades,” said Dr. Chuanhai Cao, one of the study’s lead authors. “We believe moderate daily consumption of caffeinated coffee is the best current option for long-term protection against Alzheimer’s memory loss. Coffee is inexpensive, readily available, easily gets into the brain, appears to directly attack the disease process and has few side effects for most of us.”

“No synthetic drugs have yet been developed to treat the underlying Alzheimer’s disease process,” said Dr. Gary Arendash, one of the study’s lead authors. “We see no reason why an inherently natural product such as coffee cannot be more beneficial and safer than medications, especially to protect against a disease that takes decades to become apparent after it starts in the brain.”

In earlier studies with Alzheimer’s mice, USF researchers have indicated that caffeine was probably the ingredient that provides protection — because it decreases brain production of beta-amyloid.

The new study, however, shows that it may not be caffeine itself, but a combination of caffeine and coffee’s compounds that together cause an increase in blood levels of a growth factor called GCSF (granulocyte colony stimulating factor). Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have low levels of GCSF — and it can improve memory in Alzheimer’s mice.

Although the current study was done only with mice, the research team says they’ve gathered clinical evidence of caffeinated coffee’s ability to protect humans against Alzheimer’s — and will publish those findings soon.

Coffee seems to work three ways to quash the brain’s production of the beta-amyloid plaque, researchers said. “Together these actions appear to give coffee an amazing potential to protect against Alzheimer’s — but only if you drink moderate amounts of caffeinated coffee,” said Cao, lead author of the study.

One note: The researchers used only coffee prepared in an automatic drip coffeemaker, not instant coffee, so they are unsure if instant coffee would provide the same benefit.

So how much should you drink for this benefit? Although the average American drinks 1.5 to 2 cups of coffee a day, earlier research suggests that it may take 4 to 5 8-ounce cups a day to protect against Alzheimer’s. Yet Cao isn’t sure you need to drink that much coffee to protect your brain from Alzheimers. He says that if you like coffee, keep drinking it — but don’t switch to decaf.

The research team also believes that starting moderate daily coffee intake in middle age — in your 30s, 40s and 50s — is optimal for providing protection against the disease — though increasing your coffee consumption in older age also appears to have some benefit.

“We are not saying that daily moderate coffee consumption will completely protect people from getting Alzheimer’s disease,” Cao said. “However, we do believe that moderate coffee consumption can appreciably reduce your risk of this dreaded disease or delay its onset.” or 407-420-5433.

Copyright © 2011, Orlando Sentinel


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