Study : Coffee a Cure for Alzheimer’s?

Drink coffee: Don’t forget.

Researchers at the University of Florida believe there may be an incredibly simple solution to the Alzheimer’s problem — coffee.

By Ted McLaughlin / The Rag Blog / July 5, 2009

According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), “Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes.” They go on to say, “Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, or loss of intellectual function, among people aged 65 and older.”

It is believed that the disease is caused by “two types of abnormal lesions clog the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease: Beta-amyloid plaques -— sticky clumps of protein fragments and cellular material that form outside and around neurons; and neurofibrillary tangles — insoluble twisted fibers composed largely of the protein tau that build up inside nerve cells.”

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. AFA estimates that between 2.4 and 4.5 million Americans now have the disease. With the large number of “Baby Boomers” now starting to reach retirement age, it is expected the disease will mushroom. As many as 16 million Americans could have the disease by the middle of this century.

That is a terrifying vision, especially since there is no cure. But there may be a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Researchers at the University of Florida believe there may be an incredibly simple solution to the Alzheimer’s problem — coffee (caffeine).

The Florida researchers have been doing tests on mice bred to have Alzheimer’s. According to the BBC, “First the researchers used behavioural tests to confirm the mice were exhibiting signs of memory impairment when they were aged 18 to 19 months, the equivalent to humans being about 70. Then they gave half the mice caffeine in their drinking water. The rest were given plain water. The mice were given the equivalent of five 8 oz (227 grams) cups of coffee a day — about 500 milligrams of caffeine.”

“When the mice were tested again after two months, those who were given the caffeine performed much better on tests measuring their memory and thinking skills and performed as well as mice of the same age without dementia. Those drinking plain water continued to do poorly on the tests.”

The mice that had received the caffeine also showed a 50% reduction in beta-amyloid plaques. The researchers believe the caffeine actually inhibits the production of the two enzymes needed to produce beta-amyloid.

And there was even better news. It seems the caffeine may actually act as sort of a vaccine against Alzheimer’s. Other tests done by these researchers showed that “younger mice, who had also been bred to develop Alzheimer’s but who were given caffeine in their early adulthood, were protected against the onset of memory problems.”

Could the solution to Alzheimer’s really be that simple? Could five cups of coffee a day (or 14 cups of tea or 20 carbonated soft drinks) really prevent Alzheimer’s, or improve performance in those who already have the disease?

Dr. Gary Arendash, who led the research, says it is exciting and important “because caffeine is a safe drug for most people, it easily enters the brain, and it appears to directly affect the disease process.”

But we must be careful about making too much of this research. So far, the study has only been done on mice. It might or might not work with humans. We’ll just have to wait and see what the caffeine does for humans when studied.

As Rebecca Wood of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust says, “In this study on mice with symptoms of Alzheimer’s, researchers found that caffeine boosted their memory. We need to do more research to find out whether this effect will be seen in people. It is too early to say whether drinking coffee or taking caffeine supplements will help people with Alzheimer’s.”

Even so, for us “Baby Boomers,” this is a welcome ray of hope.

[Ted McLaughlin, who contributes regularly to The Rag Blog, also posts at jobsanger, an excellent Texas political blog.]

Source /

The Rag Blog

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3 Responses to Study : Coffee a Cure for Alzheimer’s?

  1. I think it’s a preventative measure; doubt it would cure anyone with advanced Alzheimer’s.

    I noticed the comparison with 5 cups of coffee; then the tea, and then the 20 sodas a day – wow, if those sodas aren’t sugar-free, we’ll have a bunch of over-weight people who can remember when they weren’t so horribly fat, so I hope everyone goes with the coffee or tea routine…………….

  2. Anonymous says:

    5 cups of coffee can cause jitters and insomnia in some people; 20 cups of tea could a lot of folks to waste toilet water. Self-administration of excess caffeine just to inhibit formation of amyloid plaques is a tricky longshot. As a CNS stimulant, caffeine’s interaction with many prescription or dietary “uppers” is problematic at least & can be dangerous. This study is interesting, but far from conclusive. The sample mice were bred to have a particular “mousey” version of human Alzheimers. On autopsy, there is a correlation between beta amyloid plaques, nerofilbular tangles in humans diagnosed with “Alzheimers” dementia. But some people with the same diagnosis are found to have very little evidence post mortem, while others loaded with the markers post mortem never displayed the symptoms of dementia in life. The disorder isn’t simple, and neither is the answer. In the instant study, another hypothesis is that mice who got caffeine were simply more mentally & physically active, with resulting brain chemistry better able to inhibit plaque/tangle formation, even in geneticallyl-prone rodents. That is: the activity level, not the caffeine itself, was protective. If true, I’d suggest it would be wiser to work, think, exercise and problem solve than slurp coffee all day. Now, if I could just remember how to force myself into that active mode…wait, I know, I’ll make myself a cup of java

  3. Steve Russell says:

    I got a question.

    Aren’t they saying they used the equivalent of five cups of joe FOR A MOUSE?

    So how much would a human have to drink if it takes five cups to help a mouse?

    How would there be time to do anything but drink coffee?

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