Health: Evidence suggests coffee boosts protection against Alzheimer’s Disease

I receive a lot of questionable mail. One says I can invest one thousand dollars and make an easy million. Another, that a simple lifestyle change will cure anything that ails me. Still another arrives that I initially believe is rubbish until I read on. It’s a report from The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. It states that researchers from the University of South Florida claim that coffee could decrease the risk of this mind-robbing disease. But is this possible? Or just another hoax?

Previous studies in humans have suggested that daily coffee intake during middle and older years has decreased the risk of this frightening disease. They credit caffeine with lowering the production of beta amyloid, a protein that has been linked to this illness.

To prove this conclusion, researchers developed a breed of mice that developed symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease. They discovered that caffeine caused the increase of a critical growth factor called GCSF (granulocyte colony stimulating factor). It was discovered that GCSF helped to improve the memory in Alzheimer mice. This was encouraging news as patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease do show a marked decrease in GCSF.

Dr. Chuanhai Cao, the neuroscientist heading this study, reports, “Caffeine coffee provides a natural increase in blood GCSF. The exact way that this occurs is not understood. But there is a synergistic interaction between caffeine and some mystery component of coffee that provides the beneficial increase in blood levels of GCSF.”

One aspect of the study was to compare the effects of caffeinated coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and caffeine alone, on Alzheimer’s mice and normal mice. The only positive result was found with caffeinated coffee. Researchers added that they used only “drip coffee” in their studies so they do not know whether “instant caffeinated coffee” would provide the same response.

But what is it about GCSF that enhances memory? Researchers claim that GCSF triggers several responses. First, it recruits stem cells from bone marrow to enter the brain. It also removes harmful beta amyloid protein that initially initiates the disease. GCSF also creates new connections between brain cells and also increases the birth of new neurons in the brain.

The doctor adds that, “all these mechanisms compliment caffeine’s amazing ability to suppress the production of beta-amyloid protein. But it only occurs if you drink moderate amounts of caffeinated coffee.”

Dr. Cao adds that coffee is also high in anti-inflammatory compounds that may provide protective benefits in fighting Alzheimer’s disease.

There is also an increasing body of evidence that moderate intake of coffee decreases the risk of several other diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, Type 2 diabetes, and stroke. And more recent studies indicate that it may reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer.

I’m sure that readers are saying, “But these experiments were conducted on mice and not humans.” I agree that what works in mice may be a different story in humans. Yet researchers respond that they “have collected evidence that caffeine coffee has the ability to protect humans and they will publish their evidence soon.”

Dr. Gary Arendash, another researcher associated with this study, says, “Hopefully the coffee industry will become an active partner with researchers to find the protective ingredient in coffee and be able to concentrate it in other dietary sources. But for the moment there is no evidence that caffeine in other drinks such as tea, or carbonated beverages, is effective.”

I’ve never been a coffee drinker. But if I were one, I’d certainly be pleased to hear this news. Coffee is safe and most North Americans drink an average of four to five cups daily, which is more than the amounts researchers say protects against Alzheimer’s disease. Besides, coffee is much available and less expensive than prescription drugs.

And prevention is better than cure. So the next study will see if coffee can prevent patients who have early signs of dementia from progressing to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease. But as Dr. Arendash remarks, “Wouldn’t it be ironic that pharmaceutical companies are spending millions to develop drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease when an effective natural remedy is under our nose every morning!”

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones can be reached at

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