JOONDALUP, Australia — Avid coffee drinkers rejoice! Your favorite morning habit is now linked to a lower dementia risk. Scientists from Edith Cowan University report having an extra cup or two coffee may make you less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
This was a long-term project, tracking cognitive decline and coffee drinking habits among more than 200 Australians over the course of a decade.
“We found participants with no memory impairments and with higher coffee consumption at the start of the study had lower risk of transitioning to mild cognitive impairment – which often precedes Alzheimer’s disease – or developing Alzheimer’s disease over the course of the study,” explains lead investigator Dr. Samantha Gardener in a statement..
The study suggests that drinking more coffee has a positive effect on various aspects of brain health including executive function abilities which include planning, self-control, and attention. More coffee also appears to promote a slowing of amyloid protein buildup in the brain, considered a precursor to Alzheimer’s onset.
While these findings are not definitive, and more research is needed on the topic, study authors posit that drinking coffee may be an easy, enjoyable way to help prevent dementia.
“It’s a simple thing that people can change,” Dr. Gardener says. “It could be particularly useful for people who are at risk of cognitive decline but haven’t developed any symptoms. We might be able to develop some clear guidelines people can follow in middle age and hopefully it could then have a lasting effect.”
So how much coffee should you be drinking? Researchers say that if you typically only have one cup of java per morning, don’t feel guilty about heading back to the coffeepot for a second helping. That being said, the study did not determine the “ideal” or “maximum” amount of coffee one should be drinking.
“If the average cup of coffee made at home is 240g, increasing to two cups a day could potentially lower cognitive decline by eight per cent after 18 months,” Dr. Gardener adds. “It could also see a five per cent decrease in amyloid accumulation in the brain over the same time period.”
This research also did not differentiate between regular and decaf coffee, and did not assess potential differences depending on chosen method of coffee preparation (brewing method, milk, sugar, etc).
As far as why coffee may help prevent dementia, study authors say caffeine may not be the only contributor. “Crude caffeine,” which is produced when coffee is de-caffeinated, has been shown to help slow memory loss in mice models. Similarly, other coffee components including cafestol, kahweol and Eicosanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamide have all shown promise as cognitive aids in various animal studies.
“We need to evaluate whether coffee intake could one day be recommended as a lifestyle factor aimed at delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Gardener concludes.