Coffee consumption could lower Alzheimer's risk

Thursday, 23 December, 2021

Coffee consumption could lower Alzheimer's risk

A long-term study has revealed drinking coffee may make you less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, with the results published in the journal Frontiers of Ageing Neuroscience.

As part of the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle Study of ageing, researchers from Edith Cowan University (ECU) and their collaborators investigated whether coffee intake affected the rate of cognitive decline of more than 200 Australians over a decade. Lead investigator Dr Samantha Gardener said results showed an association between coffee and several important markers related to Alzheimer’s disease.

“We found participants with no memory impairments and with higher coffee consumption at the start of the study had lower risk of transitioning to mild cognitive impairment — which often precedes Alzheimer’s disease — or developing Alzheimer’s disease over the course of the study,” she said.

Drinking more coffee gave positive results in relation to certain domains of cognitive function — specifically executive function, which includes planning, self-control and attention. Higher coffee intake also seemed to be linked to slowing the accumulation of the amyloid protein in the brain, a key factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

“If the average cup of coffee made at home is 240 g, increasing to two cups a day could potentially lower cognitive decline by 8% after 18 months,” Dr Gardener said.

“It could also see a 5% decrease in amyloid accumulation in the brain over the same time period.”

That said, the maximum number of cups per day that provided a beneficial effect was not able to be established from the current study. Indeed, recent research led by the University of South Australia found that those who drank more than six cups of coffee a day had a 53% increased risk of dementia as well as an increased risk of stroke.

Furthermore, researchers are yet to determine precisely which constituents of coffee are behind its seemingly positive effects on brain health; though caffeine has been linked to the results, preliminary research shows it may not be the sole contributor to potentially delaying Alzheimer’s disease. ‘Crude caffeine’ is the by-product of de-caffeinating coffee and has been shown to be as effective in partially preventing memory impairment in mice, while other coffee components such as cafestol, kahweol and Eicosanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamide have also been seen to affect cognitive impairment in animals in various studies.

The study was also unable to differentiate between caffeinated and de-caffeinated coffee, nor the benefits or consequences of how it was prepared (brewing method, the presence of milk and/or sugar, etc). But while Dr Gardener concluded that further research is needed, she said the study is encouraging as it indicates that drinking coffee could be an easy way to help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

“It could be particularly useful for people who are at risk of cognitive decline but haven’t developed any symptoms,” she said.

“We might be able to develop some clear guidelines people can follow in middle age and hopefully it could then have a lasting effect.”

Image credit: © Spears | Inhaus Creative

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