DRINKING three cups of coffee daily could help keep Alzheimer’s disease at bay, according to the results of a new study.
Research showed people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or memory loss, who had high levels of caffeine in their blood did not go on to development dementia.
The findings indicate caffeine, the source of which was mainly coffee, offers some protection against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists at the University of South Florida and the University of Miami monitored 124 people aged between 65 and 88, testing their blood caffeine levels and their cognitive ability for two to four years.
Caffeine levels among those who developed dementia were 51 per cent lower than those who did not.
“Coffee would appear to be the major or perhaps only source of caffeine for such stable MCI (mild cognitive impairment) patients,” the authors of the study wrote.
“This case-control study provides the first direct evidence that caffeine/coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of dementia or delayed onset, particularly for those who already have MCI.”
The researchers involved previously established a link between caffeine and the delayed development of Alzheimer’s disease through studies of mice.
The most recent evidence showed no one with MCI who developed Alzheimer’s disease had blood caffeine levels of 1200 ng/ml – the equivalent of several cups of a coffee.
“This study provides an intriguing association between plasma caffeine levels in MCI patients and their ensuing progression (or not) to dementia,” the study added.
“High plasma caffeine levels in MCI patients at the beginning of a 2–4 year cognitive assessment period were associated with complete avoidance of progression to dementia over that period.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, between 10 to 15 per cent of people with MCI go on to develop dementia.
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s a positive bit of research.
“But we shouldn’t be rushing out and assuming drinking a couple of cups of coffee will stop us getting Alzheimer’s. The key issue is to have more studies like this to check out the findings.”
Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research, added: “I think we’re still at the point, to use the jigsaw metaphor, where we’ve got a lot of pieces but we still don’t know how they fit together.
“Many people say we are where cancer was 30 years ago with the level of knowledge and investment.
“What is needed is a sustained and significant investment into research over a long period of time.”
- Donna Bowater