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Caffeine May Reverse Memory Problems seen in Alzheimer's

Coffee_LoverNew research out of the US provides evidence that coffee may reverse memory problems seen in Alzheimer's disease.  The study, from the Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC), found that mice with Alzheimer's plaques in their brains had greatly improved memory after just two months of treatments with caffeine in their drinking water (1).

The hallmark of Alzheimer's disease is a build up of sticky plaques of a substance called beta-amyloid in the brain. One of the most exciting aspects of this study was the finding that the mice which drank caffeine had a nearly 50% decrease in the beta-amyloid plaques in their brain. This means that caffeine  not only has the potential to improve Alzheimer's symptoms, but also to reverse the disease process.

Researchers used mice which were specially bred to produce too much beta-amyloid, causing plaques associated with Alzheimer's to form in their brains.  Half of the mice were given 1.5mg of caffeine each day in their drinking water, starting around 18 months of age. At this point, the mice were already having problems with working memory.

A person would need to consume about 500mg of caffeine per day to get the same amount for their body weight as the mice in this study. Depending on how it is brewed, this is the amount of caffeine in 2-5 cups of coffee, 14 cups of tea or 20 cola drinks.

According to Dr. Arendash, who led the study at the ADRC, this research is exciting because caffeine is a safe drug for most people, which enters the brain easily.  Of course, the results in mice are no guarantee that caffeine will cure Alzheimer's disease in humans, but it certainly provides a promising pathway for new clinical trials in Alzheimer's treatment.

This study is one among many that shows the potential health benefits of coffee, which is rich in both caffeine as well as powerful antioxidants.  Several studies have shown a link between coffee consumption and a decreased risk of Parkinson's disease, another disease which impacts the brain.  One study looked at Parkinson's patients and their close relatives, and found that 40% of healthy relatives consumed three or more cups of coffee per day during their lifetime.  The relatives with Parkinson's were about 40% less likely to consume that much coffee (2).

Coffee's effects aren't' limited to the brain though. A systematic review of all studies on the impact of coffee on the development of type 2 diabetes found that people who consumed 4 or more cups of coffee a day had a significantly lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (3).

Of course, like anything in life, coffee and caffeine consumption isn't entirely without risk. Recent studies have linked caffeine consumption of more than 200mg a day to an increased risk of miscarriage (4). Coffee also causes a slight increase in blood pressure, cholesterol and homocysteine levels, and researchers are uncertain how these changes might impact heart health (5). If you're considering increasing your coffee intake, you should consider your own health and lifestyle, and talk to your doctor about how more caffeine could impact you at this stage in your life.

Authour: Kristies McNealy M.D.

Kristie McNealy M.D.is a medical doctor turned freelance writer and medical blogger. You can find her blogging about women's and children's health at www.KristieMcNealy.com

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References:

1. Arendash GW, et al. (2009).  Caffeine Reverses Cognitive Impairment and Decreases Brain Amyloid-β Levels in Aged Alzheimer’s Disease Mice.  JAD 17(3).

2. Hancock DB, et al.  (2007).  Smoking, Caffeine, and Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs in Families With Parkinson Disease.  Archives of Neurology.  64:576-580. Â 

3. van Dam RM, Hu FB.  (2005).  Coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review.  JAMA. 294(1):97-104.

4. Weng X, et al.  (2008).  Maternal caffeine consumption during pregnancy and the risk of miscarriage: a prospective cohort study.  Am J Obstet Gynecol. 198(3):279.

5. Ricksen FP, et al.  (2009).  Acute and long-term cardiovascular effects of coffee: implications for coronary heart disease.  Pharmacol Ther.  121(2):185-91.

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