The beneficial effects of coffee have been widely professed. One of those benefits has been mental protection from cognitive impairment and memory deficits. There have been human observational and epidemiological studies that have suggested that the caffeine in coffee can protect against the development of Alzheimer’s dementia. In addition, there have been some animal model studies that have also suggested that caffeine can protect against the progression to dementia. Researchers, lead by Dr. Gary W. Arendash and Dr. Chuanhai Cao, have provided additional evidence that the caffeine in coffee can prevent patients with mild cognitive impairment from progressing to dementia. The investigators used a case-control study to assess the impact of caffeine on the progression to dementia. In the study, 124 participants aged 65-88 years old were assessed for cognitive function and blood caffeine levels at baseline and at the study termination. The participants were followed for a 2-4 year period. The blood caffeine levels at the study onset was 51% lower for those participants with mild cognitive impairment that progressed to dementia as compared to those with mild cognitive impairment that did not progress. The researchers found that a critical level of 1200 ng/mL of caffeine offered the most protection from progressing from mild cognitive impairment to dementia. The authors wrote, “plasma caffeine levels greater than 1200 ng/mL (≈6 microM) in [mild cognitive impairment] subjects were associated with no conversion to dementia during the ensuing 2–4 year follow-up period”. In addition, the researchers found that three cytokines (GCSF, IL-10, IL-6) were decreased in subjects with mild cognitive impairment that progressed to dementia as compared to subjects with mild cognitive impairment that did not progress. The authors concluded that, “This case-control study provides the first direct evidence that caffeine/coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of dementia or delayed onset, particularly for those who already have [mild cognitive impairment]”. So next time you reach for an additional cup of coffee in the morning, have no regrets as you may be protecting your cognitive function and preventing or delaying the development of dementia.
Chuanhai Cao et al “High Blood Caffeine Levels in MCI Linked to Lack of Progresssion to Dementia” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2012; 30:559-572.