The Buzz About Caffeine: Can It Reverse Alzheimer’s?

July 7, 2009 at 9:45 am Leave a comment

coffee image by nk1967 on Stock.Xchng My newsreader has been full of coffee-endorsing articles these past few days, and I have to admit, the studies behind the media frenzy are intriguing:  they suggest that caffeine may not only protect against Alzheimer’s, but actually reverse some of the damage.

Here’s the deal: Researchers at the University of Florida just published the results of two back to back studies that suggest caffeine may not just offer some protection from Alzheimer’s (as previous studies have shown) but may actually reverse it.

When mice (genetically engineered to develop a  mouse-y equivalent to Alzheimer’s) were given caffeine doses (the equivalent of about 8 cups of coffee a day) at different points in their lives, their development of the disease changed pretty significantly.

The mice who were given the caffeine before their mental functions declined had fewer of the  plaques associated with Alzheimer’s – and they did better on memory tasks.  That wasn’t too surprising, because previous studies have suggested the same thing.

What is surprising is that the mice who were started on caffeine after their cognitive skills had begun to decline also showed memory improvements and a reduction in the Alzheimer’s related plaques – a significant enough change that they performed about as well as normal mice on tests of their memory..

But much of the media buzz (forgive the puns, please!) is misleading.   The studies are on genetically engineered mice, not humans who naturally develop the disease, and the results may or may not translate into real world applications.   And there are many, many other compounds that are being investigated which may be more effective, but don’t get the news coverage.

Why? The public loves it when our vices are justified by science….  similar media frenzies have latched onto the cognitive effects of dark chocolate, nicotine and red wine, for instance.  There is a promising difference, though, with these new caffeine studies –  the amounts given to the mice are not excessive, and many people already consume a similar daily dose through coffee, colas and teas.

So what do you think? Are you likely to up your caffeine intake? Or does the currently accepted wisdom about health benefits of reducing caffeine still make more sense to you?

Let me know in the comments!

Entry filed under: Nutrition & Diet, Supporting Science & Medicine. Tags: , , .

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A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
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Authored by Tori Deaux
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