Coffee May Protect from Alzheimer’s Disease
If you're a coffee drinker, you are probably rather tired of people telling you that caffeine is bad for you. Now you may have some good news to fire back at critics, for recent studies at the University of South Florida show that drinking coffee every day protects against Alzheimer's disease.
Tests funded by the Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center showed that when mice bred with symptoms to mimic Alzheimer's disease were given moderate amounts of caffeinated coffee they appeared to be protected against Alzheimer's, a common disease affecting long-term memory and brain function in old age.
The study also showed that similar drinks such as tea, decaffeinated coffee and caffeinated soda did not offer the same protection. The conclusion was that it was the presence of caffeine in conjunction with another, as yet unidentified, component of coffee that makes caffeine so effective against this memory-robbing disease. Once this component of coffee has been identified it could be synthetically produced and used with caffeine to provide long-term protection against Alzheimer's.
The Effects of Caffeine on the Brain
The study concluded that caffeine was the likely ingredient responsible for protecting the brain as caffeine is known to decrease the production of an abnormal protein called beta-amyloid, thought to cause Alzheimer's disease. Caffeine stimulates a natural increase in blood levels of granulocyte colony stimulating factor (GCSF). Sufferers of Alzheimer's are known to lack GCSF and when tested on mice displaying the symptoms of Alzheimer's, increasing the amount of GCSF improved their memory significantly.
As yet the synergy between caffeine and the unknown component in coffee to provide a beneficial increase in GCSF production is not yet fully understood. However, trials are now being followed up to see whether GCSF treatment can be used on sufferer's diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment to prevent it developing into full-blown Alzheimer's disease.
The Benefits of Higher GCSF Levels
Higher blood levels of GCSF have been associated with better memory for a long time. However it has only recently been found that only 4-5 cups of caffeinated coffee per day provides protection from Alzheimer's, unlike caffeine alone or decaffeinated coffee. It is not yet known when other types of caffeinated coffee such as instant coffee will have the same beneficial protection as "drip" coffee.
GCSF works in three ways within the brain:
"It attracts stem cells from the bone marrow to enter the brain and remove the harmful beta amyloid protein known to initiate the disease
"GCSF creates new connections between brain cells
"It increases the production of new neurons within the brain
These three activities complement coffee's ability to suppress the production of beta amyloid, a possible cause of Alzheimer's.
Researchers recommend drinking 4-5 cups of caffeinated coffee per day from middle age onwards, which is considered a moderate but safe amount to consume. Coffee is also high in antioxidants which provide protection against Alzheimer's disease and physical and mental exercise has also been shown to reduce the risk of dementia.