The January issue of ‘The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease’ features a study of long-term coffee drinking and its effect on age-related dementia.  The findings suggest drinking coffee today keeps dementia away.

A collaborative team of researchers from Sweden and Denmark enrolled 2,000 adults in the study 21 years ago.  Participants self-reported their dietary habits, including their daily coffee consumption.  After over two decades, more than 70% of the participants could be tracked for follow-up evaluations.  That the research team could find 1,409 now-middle-aged participants out of the original 2,000 is considered an unusually high number.

During those 21 years, 61 people developed dementia.  Of those 61, 48 developed Alzheimer’s disease.

After evaluating the effects of many health and socioeconomic factors, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol counts, the research team concluded the participants who drank between three and five cups of coffee a day were 65% less likely to develop dementia than those who drank less.  Drinking even more than five cups a day was also associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia but the number of participants drinking this much coffee was too small to be statistically significant.

While not advocating someone start drinking coffee as a preventive measure, Dr. Miia Kivipelto, associate professor of neurology at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, suggests the following factors may be involved:

  • Previous studies have found drinking coffee decreases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a disease that raises the risk of dementia.
  • Animal studies have shown that caffeine reduces formation of amyloid plaques in the brain.  These plaques are a distinguishing characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Coffee may be a bloodstream-protecting antioxidant that protects the vascular system enough to reduce the likelihood of dementia.

Kivipelto also noted coffee consumption has been linked to decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease.

The research team acknowledges the inherent flaws in an observational study with data derived from self-reporting but attributes a strong degree of accuracy to the fact the participants’ dietary habits were documented at the beginning of the study, leaving little need for potentially inaccurate recollection.

Source: NYT