A new study reveals that a cup of coffee in the morning not only gives you a mental lift, it also protects you against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Researchers from Krembil Brain Institute in Toronto found that the phenylindanes in roasted coffee inhibit the growth of both tau and beta amyloid plaque, proteins in the brain that are associated with increased risk of both diseases.
“Coffee consumption does seem to have some correlation to a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Donald Weaver, co-director of the Krembil Brain Institute, according to Alzheimer's & Dementia Weekly. “But we wanted to investigate why that is — which compounds are involved and how they may impact age-related cognitive decline.”
Other studies have suggested that regular caffeine consumption may offer protection against dementia, says AARP. In one study of people ages 65 to 84, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, people who drank one or two cups of coffee daily had a lower rate of mild cognitive impairment than those who never consumed coffee. Similar research has suggested that coffee also protects against Parkinson’s disease, says AARP.
But the Canadian researchers ruled out caffeine as the source of brain protection, as even decaffeinated roasted coffee offered benefits. Weaver enlisted the help of Dr. Ross Mancini, an expert in medicinal chemistry, and Yanfei Wang, a biologist, for this investigation. The team identified phenylindanes, made by roasting coffee, as the beneficial compounds that inhibit the clumping of both tau and beta amyloid protein fragments in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
“So phenylindanes are a dual-inhibitor,” noted Weaver. “We were not expecting that.”
The researchers also found that that darker roasts, which contains more of the phenylindanes, were more protective than lighter roasts. Their next step is to measure how to get these compounds into the bloodstream and across the blood-brain barrier, says Alzheimer’s & Dementia Weekly. Weaver said that the good news is that phenylindanes are a naturally accessible compound which has a medicinal advantage over synthetic products.
“Mother nature is a much better chemist than we are, and Mother Nature is able to makes these compounds,” said Weaver, adding that more research is needed before we can use coffee therapeutically to treat Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
“What this study does is take the epidemiological evidence and try to refine it and to demonstrate that there are indeed compounds within coffee that are beneficial to warding off cognitive decline. It’s interesting but are we suggesting that coffee is a cure? Absolutely not.”
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