June 7, 2012

Coffee and Alzheimer's and Me: Finally! One of My Addictions Is Found To Be Healthy!

"We firmly believe that moderate coffee consumption can appreciably reduce your risk of Alzheimer's or delay its onset" (emphasis mine).

This welcome quote comes from Dr. Chuanhai Cao, a neurologist at the University of San Francisco College of Pharmacy and the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute. Dr. Cao was lead author of a study on coffee and Alzheimer's just published in the June 5 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. (http://bit.ly/MfYSlr)

The study involved monitoring memory and thinking process in people older than 65 (my people!) during a two-to-four year period. It found that coffee consumption reduced the risk of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) even among those already showing signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI),which is an early sign of AD or dementia. Patients with MCI experience some short-term memory loss (sounds like me) and initial Alzheimer's pathology in their brains (let's hope this isn't me).

Coffee, MCI and Alzheimer's
Each year in the general population, 15 percent of patients with MCI progress to full-blown Alzheimer's. But in the study, the MCI participants who were also coffee drinkers remained stable during the study period while many of the others progressed into dementia or AD.

The researchers set a blood caffeine level of 1200 ng/ml -- the equivalent of drinking several cups of coffee a few hours before the blood test -- as the critical level for purposes of the study. "We found that 100 percent of the MCI patients with plasma caffeine above the critical level experienced no conversion to Alzheimer's disease during the two-to-four year follow-up period," said study co-author Dr. Gary Arendash.

In contrast, among participants who progressed from MCI to dementia by the end of the study period, blood caffeine levels were 51 percent lower than for those who remained stable.

Since 2006, Dr. Cao and Dr. Arendash have published several studies involving caffeine administered to mice that showed it seemed to fight off Alzheimer's. But this is the first case control study involving humans. Dr. Cao concludes:
The results from this study, along with our earlier studies of Alzheimer's in mice, are very consistent in indicating that moderate daily caffeine/coffee intake throughout adulthood should appreciably protect against Alzheimer's disease later in life.

More Good News for Us Coffee Drinkers
Given my Alzheimer's fears, this study is the biggie. But considerable research has been done in recent years of other potential health benefits from drinking coffee. Among the findings, coffee may protect against:
  • Parkinson's disease -- Several studies suggest that regular coffee consumption may reduce the risk of Parkinson's Disease. (Didn't work in my case, however.)
  • Type 2  diabetes -- Researchers learned that two compounds in coffee -- chlorogenic acid and caffeine -- may thwart protein formation that contributes to the death of pancreas cells which normally produce insulin. An earlier study of younger and middle-aged women found that drinking two or more cups of coffee a day was associated with a substantially lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Cancer --A recent study found that women who drank coffee reduced their risk of endometrial cancer by 20 percent.A recent meta-analysis of previous studies suggests that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer. One study found that drinking two cups of coffee a day was associated with a 43 percent reduced risk of liver cancer.
However, all of these studies were observational -- NOT the controlled, clinical trials needed to definitively establish therapeutic value. 

Earlier this year, a study tracking the coffee consumption and health of more than 400,000 older adults for 13 years was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It found that coffee drinking was associated with a reduced risk of dying from heart disease, lung disease, pneumonia, stroke, diabetes, infections and even injuries and accidents. 

I think I'll brew an extra cup of coffee at breakfast this morning. (I know. All the studies reference "moderate" coffee consumption. But that's a word I'm not familiar with.)


John said...

Re-reading this post, I can't help but contrast all of this professional research on the potential benefits of coffee consumption with the complete lack of such support for the very similar claims being made for coconut oil. Yet much more attention is being paid to coconut oil and Alzheimer's because   
it's being touted by people with a $$$ interest in it.

Dotpugh said...

Thanks for sending this.  With Alz. in family, I appreciate any new info on it.  However, I think of Bob with his dementia, and he did drink coffee every morning.  But I don't know about later in the day.  Do you get the DEAR notifications?  --  Please do keep your health info flowing to my email.  Thanks!