Coffee Consumption May Reduce Alzheimer’s Biomarkers

As part of the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle Study of aging, researchers from Edith Cowan University investigated whether coffee intake affected the rate of cognitive decline of more than 200 Australians over a decade. 

Lead investigator Samantha Gardener, PhD, says results showed an association between coffee and several important markers related to Alzheimer’s disease.

“We found that participants with no memory impairments and with higher coffee consumption at the start of the study had 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 says.

Drinking more coffee gave positive results in relation to certain domains of cognitive function, specifically executive function, which includes planning, self-control, and attention. 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. 

Gardener says that although further research was needed, the study was encouraging, as it indicated drinking coffee could be an easy way to help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s a simple thing that people can change,” she says. “It could be particularly useful for people who are at risk of cognitive decline but haven’t developed any symptoms. We might be able to develop some clear guidelines people can follow in middle age and hopefully it could then have a lasting effect.”

If you only allow yourself one cup of coffee per day, the study indicates you might be better off treating yourself to an extra cup, although a maximum number of cups per day that provided a beneficial effect couldn’t be established. 

“If the average cup of coffee made at home is 240 g, increasing to two cups a day could potentially lower cognitive decline by 8% after 18 months,” Gardener says. “It could also see a 5% decrease in amyloid accumulation in the brain over the same time period.” In Alzheimer’s disease, the amyloid clumps together, forming plaques that are toxic to the brain.

The study couldn’t differentiate between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, nor the benefits or consequences of how it was prepared (ie, brewing method, the presence of milk and/or sugar, etc).

Gardener says the relationship between coffee and brain function is worth pursuing.

“We need to evaluate whether coffee intake could one day be recommended as a lifestyle factor aimed at delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease,” she says.

Researchers are yet to determine precisely which constituents of coffee are behind its seemingly positive effects on brain health. “Crude caffeine” is the byproduct of decaffeinating coffee and has been shown to be as effective in partially preventing memory impairment in mice, while other coffee components such as cafestol, kahweol, and eicosanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamide also have been seen to affect cognitive impairment in animals in various studies.

— Source: Edith Cowan University