A variety of Web sites, including Forbes.com and USAToday.com, have either quoted researchers or summarized research studies indicating the positive effects of coffee on the brain. Since a well-established body of research already exists that coffee may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, the studies focusing on Alzheimer’s disease provide a glimmer of hope for people like me who worry about getting this disease in the future.
For instance, research published in 2002 in the European Journal of Neurology indicated that people who consumed more caffeine in midlife may be giving themselves some protection from developing Alzheimer’s later in life. In another study, researchers from the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute found that caffeine intake equal to five cups of coffee a day for humans protects mice against memory impairments.
Most recently, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study on coffee and Alzheimer’s disease in its August 2006 issue. This study, which was conducted over a 10-year period and included 600 elderly men, found that those who drank caffeine regularly experienced a much smaller decline in their mental abilities than non-coffee drinkers.
Furthermore, coffee is being studied as to whether it could be beneficial for loved ones who already have been diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease. The Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute’s study also determined that mice with Alzheimer’s disease which were given caffeine performed much better than mice with Alzheimer’s which only drank normal drinking water.
As someone who comes from a family with a strong history of developing dementia, I figure that any changes in behaviors that I can make to delay (or even stop) this disease are worth making now. Although scientific research may not be able to prove conclusively that specific lifestyle changes can prevent Alzheimer’s, at least I am making some thoughtful choices regarding my health today – and possibly in the future.