A Coffee a Day Keeps Dementia Away?

Health Professional

It’s always nice to be able to report on the positives. For some time now we’ve reported on the potential benefits of caffeine on reducing or slowing the progress of dementia. At face value it’s one of those win-win situations. Millions of us across the globe may have unknowingly been protecting ourselves by virtue of the fact we just happen to enjoy tea or coffee.

Reports about the supposed benefits of caffeine have been trickling in for at least a decade. Despite this, hard evidence that our daily cup o' joe can actually prevent dementia, isn’t available. Diet however has always figured prominently in all aspects of health and dementia is no exception.  It has long been suspected that polyphenols, found in high concentrations in coffee, are one of the protective compounds. The so-called Mediterranean diet with its emphasis on fish, vegetables, olive oil and red wine also appears to have protective effects.

Some of the current wisdom suggests that around three to five cups of coffee per day offers the optimum protective effect, but some studies suggest less. Coupled with a healthy balanced diet, regular exercise, not smoking and keeping weight and blood pressure in check, all seem to reduce risks.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is considered a prodrome (a very early symptom) of Alzheimer’s disease. A great deal of research into dementia prevention focuses on understanding the neurological processes at this very stage.  Recent interest, for example, has been stirred by Eli Lilly’s announcement of the drug Solanezumab, which it is hoped may delay the onset of dementia if prescribed at a very early stage. But, recent investigations into coffee consumption have also been looking at early stages of dementia.

A recent publication in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that our pattern of coffee drinking may have some bearing on higher or lower rates of MCI. The Italian study, evaluating 1,445 people from a 5,632 sample of 65-84 year olds, found that older people who modified their habits (by one or more cups per day) had about a two-times higher rate of MCI compared with those who reduced their habits by the same amount. They also found that older adults who regularly consumed one or two cups of coffee a day had a much reduced incidence of MCI compared with those who either never or only rarely drank coffee.

Coffee drinking studies have had something of a mixed press, some reporting benefits and others not. Very often the titles of such reports, like the title of this post, contains the word ‘may’. So whilst coffee may help to lower the risk of dementia the case is far from proven. It certainly awaits a properly controlled clinical trial in order to provide an answer. While we’re waiting it appears the most sensible thing is to continue with a healthy lifestyle. And, as so many of us already embrace coffee drinking as a part of our daily routine, we should continue, content in the knowledge that our brain appears to thank us for doing so.

IOS Press BV. (2015, July 28). Coffee consumption habits impact the risk of mild cognitive impairment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150728162521.htm