The research published in Frontiers of Aging Neuroscience found that the beverage reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain.
Drinking coffee may lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease
According to recent research published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, those who consume coffee may be less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease (a type of dementia that causes gradual memory loss).
Lead investigator Dr. Samantha Gardener said results showed an association between coffee and several important markers related to Alzheimer’s disease.
“We found participants with no memory impairments and with higher coffee consumption at the start of the study had a lower risk of transitioning to mild cognitive impairment — which often precedes Alzheimer’s disease — or developing Alzheimer’s disease over the course of the study,” she said.
Drinking more coffee gave positive results in relation to certain domains of cognitive function, specifically executive function which includes planning, self-control, and attention.
Exactly how coffee helps delay the development of Alzheimer's is not known, but Cao has a theory. It involves beta-amyloid, a protein that accumulates in the brains of people who have Alzheimer's disease.
"Beta-amyloid doesn't cause Alzheimer's," he says. "We are born with this protein in our brains."
So what goes wrong? This protein accumulates or aggregates in the brain because it is no longer sufficiently metabolized with advancing age. "Your system can't handle all of it and leftover protein accumulates in the brain."
Enter your daily cups of joe. "Caffeine inhibits the production of beta-amyloid, so your system only metabolizes all of the available protein," Cao says.
Coffee may have other important health benefits as well. Research has shown that it can reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and breast cancer.
Sam Gandy, MD, Ph.D., reviewed the new findings for WebMD. He is the Mount Sinai Chair in Alzheimer's disease research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
"There is some support for this observation," he says via email.
"There are basic science studies from our lab and from other labs showing that a substance called cyclic AMP can reduce the formation of amyloid, and it is well known that caffeine elevates cyclic AMP levels."
What's more, "attention is a key component of memory, and it is well established that caffeine increases attention. Thus, it is conceivable that caffeine improves memory by virtue of its effects on memory."
But, Gandy adds, the jury is still out on how or if caffeine affects the risk for Alzheimer's. "Before we can recommend any drug (even caffeine), we must test the drug in randomized clinical trials. That would be the obvious next step for the caffeine story."
Higher coffee intake also seemed to be linked to slowing the accumulation of the amyloid protein in the brain, a key factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.