Caffeine, Coffee Drinking, and reduced risk of eurodegenerative Disorders
Studies suggest that a regular, lifelong, moderate consumption of coffee and the caffeine it contains, slows down physiological, age-related cognitive decline, especially in women, and those over 80 years old in particular. Research suggests that lifelong, moderate coffee consumption is linked to a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. There is also a substantial amount of research showing that as coffee consumption rises, the risk of Parkinson’s disease falls. The research suggests a potential preventative effect of coffee on disease development. According to studies, it is likely that the caffeine in coffee is the main component responsible for the potential preventative effect of coffee. Several recent studies suggest that moderate coffee consumption may also reduce the risk of stroke. The mechanisms of action underlying the neuro-protective effects of coffee constituents remain unclear, although caffeine is thought to play a role. Other coffee components, including antioxidants, also seem to have an effect. Cognitive functions remain relatively stable until 60 years and tend to slow down thereafter, and there is some evidence that brain function can start to deteriorate as early as 45, and older adults are susceptible to developing neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, for which there is no treatment at present. Around 50 to 70% of people with dementia suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and one person in twenty over 65 suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. The age of onset of Parkinson’s disease is usually over 60, but around one in ten people are diagnosed before the age of 50.
The role of coffee and caffeine
Extensive research has been carried out on various factors that might affect the development of neuro-degenerative disorders, mainly related to diet and lifestyle. Caffeine is known to stimulate human cognitive function, with positive effects on alertness, concentration, learning, memory and mood. Caffeine also stimulates motor activity. Because of these properties, caffeine is considered likely to delay or prevent physiological age-related cognitive decline and a number of neuro-degenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s – as well as stroke.
Coffee and Age-Related Cognitive Decline
Coffee and caffeine boost cognitive performance in the elderly. In many studies, young and elderly subjects appear to respond to the effects of caffeine differently. Overall, older adults are more sensitive to the stimulating effects of caffeine on cognitive function, than younger subjects. The quantity of caffeine consumed may also influence the cognitive performance of older adults. Two early studies on elderly subjects showed improved attention, psychomotor performance (movement or muscular activity associated with mental processes) and cognitive functioning with caffeine. The elderly appeared more sensitive to the protective effects of caffeine on declining mental performance over time, than the younger subjects. Another study showed that in subjects aged 18 to 37, caffeine improved performance during distraction, rather than during simple tasks. In those aged 60 to 75, however, caffeine improved performance during more complex tasks, requiring sustained attention. It appears that caffeine is able to reverse the effects of cognitive aging, by making more energy resources available in elderly subjects. In addition, a British study of over 9 000 adult subjects reported a dose related improvement in cognitive performance on a variety of tasks with higher levels of caffeine consumption from both coffee and tea. Once again, older people appeared more susceptible to the performance enhancing effects of caffeine on mental performance than younger subjects. Besides caffeine, other components in coffee may also enhance cognitive performance in older adults.
Coffee Health benefits Coffee and caffeine linked to lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a neuro-degenerative disease leading to progressive cognitive decline. An increasing number of scientific studies suggest a preventative role for caffeine and anti-oxidants in its development. The majority suggest that regular coffee with caffeine consumption over a lifetime reduces the risk of developing it, particularly in the elderly. Coffee with caffeine appears particularly beneficial before onset of the disease. A meta-analysis looking at the effects of coffee with caffeine on Alzheimer’s found a clear protective effect of coffee consumption. A more recent meta-analysis also found that coffee with caffeine intake was linked to a 17 to 20% lower risk of Alzheimer’s. Several individual studies following subjects for many years confirm the association between caffeine intake over a period of time and reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s. One of these found that coffee consumption at mid-life decreased the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia in the elderly, with the lowest risk – 65% lower – in people who drank 3 to 5 cups a day. Several studies point to possible mechanisms of action behind coffee with caffeine’s effects on Alzheimer’s risk: The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents in coffee also seem to have neuro-protective properties. Further research will likely lead to a fuller understanding of how these work.
Coffee and caffeine slow down age-related cognitive decline
Recent studies suggest that habitual coffee and caffeine consumption may boost the cognitive reserve of older adults to some extent, particularly in women. A recent meta-analysis looking at the effects of coffee and caffeine on different measures of cognitive impairment and decline, found that caffeine intake was linked to a reduced risk, showing a preventative role of coffee. A number of individual studies have also shown that lifetime, regular caffeine consumption mainly from coffee appears to reduce cognitive decline as women, in particular, get older.
The protective effect of caffeine increases with age and is most pronounced in women 80 years or older.
Caffeine in coffee reduces, or delays, development of Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating neuro-degenerative disorder characterised by the slowing down of motor function, resting tremor, muscular rigidity, gait disturbances, and balance impairment. It results from the progressive destruction of neurons in the brain responsible for dopamine neuro-transmission. There is no treatment to prevent or slow down this loss and the resulting dopamine decrease. Recent research has focused on lifestyle, dietary and environmental risk factors, including coffee consumption. A large number of studies point to the preventative role of coffee with caffeine consumption in its development. Coffee consumption seems to reduce or delay development of Parkinson’s – and caffeine is most likely the cause. This link was observed as long ago as 1968. Many subsequent studies have found coffee consumers to be less likely to develop Parkinson’s, and those who did develop it, had lower coffee consumption rates. A large study of over 8000 men followed up for 27 years found that those who drank more than 4 cups of coffee a day were 5 times less likely to develop Parkinson’s than non-coffee drinkers. The relationship was similar for caffeine from non-coffee sources. Two meta-analyses reported that regular coffee drinkers to be at lower risk of Parkinson’s than non-coffee drinkers, and with every 300mg increase in caffeine intake – the equivalent of 3 regular cups of caffeinated coffee – risk fell by 24 to 32%. In women, the studies indicate that as long as women are NOT taking HRT – Hormone Replacement Therapy – they can enjoy equal protective effect with men.
Coffee and Reduced Stroke Risk
Recent research shows moderate coffee consumption to reduce stroke risk, with more benefit for higher consumers of coffee – 20 to 5 cups a day. Reduction of risk has ranged from 20 to 25% in the studies so far. The conclusion – wake, up smell the coffee, drink it, and enjoy!