If you drink a cup of coffee or two every morning to help start the day, a new study says it may help your brain.
According to researchers from the University of South Florida and the University of Miami, having a high level of caffeine in your blood may help you avoid Alzheimer’s.
In the study, the researchers measured the blood levels of 124 people between the ages of 65 and 88. They followed the participants for two to four years. They found that the higher your blood levels of caffeine, the less likely you are to suffer from the memory impairment. For most of these participants, coffee was either the major source or only source of their caffeine.
This is powerful evidence that coffee drinking has a direct impact on preventing Alzheimer’s. Because the researchers used objective measurements and compared them to the number of Alzheimer’s cases, it shows a clear connection between caffeine and brain health.
The study’s lead author Dr. Chuanhai Cao, a neuroscientist at the USF College of Pharmacy and the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute, agrees. He said, “These intriguing results suggest that older adults with mild memory impairment who drink moderate levels of coffee — about 3 cups a day — will not convert to Alzheimer’s disease — or at least will experience a substantial delay before converting to Alzheimer’s. The results from this study, along with our earlier studies in Alzheimer's mice, are very consistent in indicating that moderate daily caffeine/coffee intake throughout adulthood should appreciably protect against Alzheimer’s disease later in life.”
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What’s more, this study found that caffeine can help those who are already showing signs of mild cognitive impairment. About 15% of those with early symptoms will develop full-blown Alzheimer’s each year. So it’s important to slow this process as much as possible. And caffeine can help.
The researchers gave special attention to those with mild cognitive impairment. They found that the patients with the lowest blood caffeine levels progressed to Alzheimer’s the quickest. In fact, all of the patients with mild cognitive impairment who later developed Alzheimer’s had a blood level lower than 1,200 ng/ml. But those who did not develop Alzheimer’s had blood levels above this critical level. In other words, this level of caffeine in your blood appears to be a sure marker for whether you will develop the disease or not.
The study only followed the patients for up to four years. So it’s possible these patients could have developed full-blown Alzheimer’s after the study. But the caffeine definitely slowed the progression.
Dr. Cao cautioned, “We are not saying that moderate coffee consumption will completely protect people from Alzheimer's disease. However, we firmly believe that moderate coffee consumption can appreciably reduce your risk of Alzheimer's or delay its onset.”
I agree. Drinking two or three cups of coffee each day appears to be a powerful way to protect your brain from developing Alzheimer’s. This study focused mainly on coffee, as that was what most of the participants drank. But caffeine is caffeine, whether the source is coffee or tea. So feel free to drink a moderate amount of coffee or tea each day. It could protect your brain from deteriorating to Alzheimer’s.
This study also suggests coffee is all you need to protect your brain against Alzheimer’s. It might be. But I wouldn’t rely solely on caffeine for something this important. I would eat a good diet, get plenty of exercise, and take brain-protecting nutrients, like those in Advanced Memory Formula, to make sure your brain stays sharp.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, June 5, 2012.