Coffee May Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

Coffee May Lower Alzheime…

As elder law attorneys, we’re always on the lookout for information that can improve the lives of our clients and their families, many of whom are coping with Alzheimer’s. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is something most of us dread hearing for ourselves or our family members. As the population ages, researchers work feverishly to learn more about this disease, its causes, its treatment, and hopefully, to find a cure. Progress is being made, though not quickly enough for many families. Still, there are glimmers of encouraging news emerging, and one of them has to do with coffee and Alzheimer’s risk.

Too often, it seems, we hear in the news that a favorite food or beverage is bad for us in some previously unknown way. This time, the surprise is a good one, at least for those of us who love our morning cup of joe. Numerous studies have suggested that coffee reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s. While it’s not a cure, it is certainly an encouragement to indulge, without guilt, in a little more of something most of us already enjoy. Let’s take a look at what scientists now know, and what they are trying to learn, about coffee and Alzheimer’s.

How Does Coffee Affect Alzheimer’s?

Unfortunately, coffee isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, nor is it 100% effective in preventing it. But it does appear to have a clear beneficial effect, delaying the onset of symptoms.

Research from Edith Cowan University in Australia studied over 200 Australians for more than 10 years to observe whether coffee had any impact on the rate of cognitive decline in the study participants. The news was encouraging. At the beginning of the study, participants had no evidence of cognitive impairment. Those participants who began the study with higher levels of coffee consumption were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) by the study’s conclusion, (Mild cognitive impairment is often a precursor to development of full-blown Alzheimer’s.)

The scientists who conducted the research suggested that increasing coffee intake from one cup per day to two could reduce cognitive decline by eight percent after 18 months. The study found no difference between caffeinated and decaf coffee in their Alzheimer’s research. The study also wasn’t able to identify a maximum number of cups after which the benefit decreased, so it’s possible that if you drink more than two cups of coffee per day, you will experience an even greater benefit.

The scientists who conducted the research suggested that increasing coffee intake from one cup per day to two could reduce cognitive decline by eight percent after 18 months. The study found no difference between caffeinated and decaf coffee in their Alzheimer’s research. The study also wasn’t able to identify a maximum number of cups after which the benefit decreased, so it’s possible that if you drink more than two cups of coffee per day, you will experience an even greater benefit.

The Krembil Brain Institute in Toronto, Ontario has also found evidence that coffee reduces risk of Alzheimer’s. That study, conducted in 2018, went so far as to try to identify what compounds in coffee were most likely to help dementia. The study’s researchers tested compounds found in different types of coffee beans, including caffeinated and decaffeinated, light roast and dark.

Accumulation and “clumping” of beta-amyloid and tau proteins in the brain is associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. A chemical compound found in coffee, phenylindanes, appears to reduce that buildup. A longer roast time is associated with higher levels of phenylindanes, so the Krembil researchers concluded that consumption of dark roast coffee is most beneficial.

Many people who have read that coffee consumption reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s assume that it is the caffeine that provides the benefit. That is partly true (although as the studies above show, caffeine is not the only beneficial compound in coffee). A 2012 study on caffeine and Alzheimer’s suggests that caffeinated coffee delays the onset of Alzheimer’s in adults who are already showing memory problems. The study, which featured 124 adults over 65 with mild cognitive impairment, looked at the blood caffeine level of participants. Those with higher levels developed Alzheimer’s two to four years later than those with lower levels. Coffee was the primary or only source of caffeine for most people in the study.

Coffee and Alzheimer’s Risk: Getting the Most Benefit

The studies discussed above are only a few of the many looking into coffee and Alzheimer’s. Does coffee help dementia? There seems to be increasing evidence that it does. If you already drink coffee, you might want to up your intake. If you have tended to drink light roast, you might want to give a darker roast a try. And while the Australian study didn’t find a difference between caffeinated and decaf coffee and Alzheimers, at least some research indicates more caffeine is better.

The bottom line is, having that extra cup of coffee in the afternoon no longer needs to be a guilty pleasure; think of it as preventative medicine, and enjoy!

If you have more questions about Alzheimer’s disease, including how to help a loved one with Alzheimer’s or steps you can take to prevent dementia, we invite you to contact our law office to schedule a consultation.

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