Coffee and Alzheimer’s Disease: A possible link to preventing this disease

by Zero Mella MD, Afable Medical Center, Olongapo City, Philippines — The Mella Clan has been plagued by Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) for the past century alone. My late grandmother Dolores Licup Mella was the last known person to be afflicted. Being with her for the remaining decade of her life, I have learned how debilitating this disease can be. She can’t even remember her own children. In her last days, she acted as if though she was six years old and that her daily activities were dictated by her parents which were no longer living. It was hard for us to see her brilliant mind deteriorate like so. She was an Elementary School Teacher for a greater part of her life and she was responsible for making a difference to thousands of students that came to her guidance. She will be remembered well.

Alzheimer’s Disease is a condition where long term memory is lost because the brain loses all access to it. The mechanism is still hardly understood by neuroscientists but evidence shows degeneration by formation of plaques and tangles. It’s like forming a scar on the brain that hinders access to memory.

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Two studies conducted on Alzheimer’s disease were found to have a correlation with coffee intake:

Does caffeine intake protect from Alzheimer’s disease?

Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease: A Prospective Analysis from the Canadian Study of Health and Aging

Both studies found significant statistics that show that there is a significant inverse relationship with caffeine intake and development of Alzheimer’s disease. What this means is that coffee drinkers with moderate consumption (less than 4 cups a day) have lesser risk of developing AD than those who have low or no caffeine intake.

Coffee seems to affect also the development of late-life dementia in this article:

Midlife Coffee And Tea Drinking May Protect Against Late-Life Dementia

Image courtesy of Mikael Häggström and Wikipedia. This file is part of the public domain

This coffee effect is related to its neuro-stimulant properties that is largely not yet explained by neuroscience. The substance is still believed to be caffeine but how this affects the brain is still a mystery.

This is a good news for my relatives in the Mella Clan who are avid coffee lovers. How this may effect the management of AD in the future is still subject for debate. There is still no guidelines to recommend coffee for high-risk patients to date. Neurologists still need to establish this link in a possible long term cohort study.

But in light of retrospective studies, it’s not harmful to recommend it to my patients just as long as they take the beverage in modest amounts.

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