Drinking coffee regularly can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's 'by boosting caffeine levels in the blood'
Volunteers who remained healthy had
twice as much caffeine circulating than those who
progressed to the early stages of dementiaFirst direct evidence that coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk, or delayed onset, of dementia
11:37 GMT, 22 March 2012
Drinking coffee regularly can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by keeping caffeine levels in the blood topped up, new research shows.
Scientists who tracked elderly patients over a four year period found those with the highest levels of the stimulant in their bloodstream at the start of the study were less likely to suffer the brain-wasting disease.
Coffee morning: Caffeine appears to trigger a protective reaction in the brain
Volunteers who remained healthy had twice as much caffeine circulating in their systems as those who progressed to the early stages of dementia, according to researchers at the University of South Florida.
The findings, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, support previous studies which showed drinking three cups of a coffee a day can significantly reduce the risk of the incurable illness.
Researchers think caffeine may work by triggering a chain reaction in the brain that prevents the damage done by Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s affects an estimated 750,000 people in the UK and the number is expected to grow as the population lives longer.
Most die within ten years of being diagnosed, and the cost of caring for victims is more than stroke, heart disease and cancer put together.
The disease destroys chemical messengers within the brain and starts with the build-up of deposits – called plaques and tangles – that can disrupt normal messaging systems by causing inflammation.
Around 70 million cups of coffee are consumed every day in the UK.
To see if caffeine in beverages had a protective effect on the brain, scientists recruited 124 men and women aged between 65 and 88.
They had blood tests to assess their caffeine levels and were then tracked for up to four years to see how many developed mild cognitive impairment, regarded as an early sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
The results showed those who went on to develop mild cognitive impairment had caffeine levels at the start of the study that were 51 per cent lower than volunteers who remained mentally healthy.
In a report on their findings the researchers said: 'Coffee would appear to be the major or perhaps only source of caffeine for such stable patients.
'This case-control study provides the first direct evidence that caffeine/coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk, or delayed onset, of dementia.'
Other recent studies suggest a daily coffee can ward off depression in women and even slash the risk of a stroke by a quarter.