Over 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Previous studies published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, suggested five cups of coffee a day could help slow the progress of Alzheimer’s and even reverse the condition in those already diagnosed.
The caffeine in coffee decreases brain production of the abnormal protein beta-amyloid, which is thought to cause the disease.
But now in new findings reported by Science Daily that appeared in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers have determined an unidentified component of coffee interacts with the beverage’s caffeine, which could be why daily coffee intake protects against Alzheimer’s.
The new study shows caffeinated coffee causes an increase in blood levels of a growth factor called GCSF (granulocyte colony stimulating factor) — a substance lacking in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and which also improved memory in Alzheimer’s mice.
“Caffeinated coffee provides a natural increase in blood GCSF levels,” said USF neuroscientist Dr. Chuanhai Cao, lead author of the study. “The exact way that this occurs is not understood. There is a synergistic interaction between caffeine and some mystery component of coffee that provides this beneficial increase in blood GCSF levels.”
In their study with Alzheimer’s mice and normal mice, researchers determined caffeinated coffee greatly increased blood levels of GCSF; but neither caffeine alone or decaffeinated coffee provided this effect.
The researchers also noted that since they used only “drip” coffee in their studies, it’s unclear if “instant” coffee would provide the same GCSF response.
Researchers identified three ways GCSF improves memory performance in Alzheimer’s mice.
1) GCSF recruits stem cells from bone marrow to enter the brain and remove the harmful beta-amyloid protein that initiates the disease.
2) GCSF also creates new connections between brain cells.
3) GCSF increases the birth of new neurons in the brain.
“All three mechanisms could complement caffeine’s ability to suppress beta amyloid production in the brain” Dr. Cao 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.”
In other words, while the average American drinks 1½ to 2 cups of coffee a day, 4 to 5 cups a day is the amount the researchers believe protects against Alzheimer’s.
Coffee is a more complex beverage than many realize, and contains several ingredients other than caffeine that offers cognitive benefits against Alzheimer’s disease.
“The average American gets most of their daily antioxidants intake through coffee,” Dr. Cao said. “Coffee is high in anti-inflammatory compounds that also may provide protective benefits against Alzheimer’s disease.”
Science Daily notes an increasing body of scientific literature indicates moderate consumption of coffee decreases the risk of several diseases of aging, including Parkinson’s disease, Type II diabetes, stroke, and new recent studies claim drinking coffee may also significantly reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancers.
“Aside from coffee, two other lifestyle choices — physical and cognitive activity — appear to reduce the risk of dementia. Combining regular physical and mental exercise with moderate coffee consumption would seem to be an excellent multi-faceted approach to reducing risk or delaying Alzheimer’s,” Dr. Arendash said.
“With pharmaceutical companies spending millions of dollars trying to develop drugs against Alzheimer’s disease, there may very well be an effective preventive right under our noses every morning — caffeinated coffee.”