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A coffee a day may keep Alzheimer’s away

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Dr. Chuanhai Cao, neuroscientist at the University of South Florida, published a study in June that found that drinking coffee was linked to protection against mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and its progression to Alzheimer’s. Of the 124 participants aged 65 to 88, those who had MCI, mild cognitive impairment, also had blood caffeine levels that were 51% lower than those who did not have MCI during the two-to-four year follow-up. Other research has also suggested that coffee may help slow cognitive decline and lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia but until now the mechanism of this protective benefit was unknown.

Under the direction of Gregory Freund, researchers at the University of Illinois have found evidence that suggests there may be an anti-inflammatory effect at work, interfering with the brain-based inflammation associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Dr. Freund induced cognitive impairment in mice by interrupting breathing and blood flow and thereby interrupting the flow of oxygen to the brain (a process called hypoxia). Separating the mice into two groups, Dr. Freund then gave one group caffeine and the other nothing. During hypoxia, adenosine is released causing damage to brain cells and activating a chain of reactions that result in inflammation. Comparing the two groups of mice after re-oxygenation, the team found that caffeine seemed to interfere with the activity of adenosine in stimulating these processes thereby limiting damage to the brain. Mice given caffeine had lower inflammatory markers and recovered the ability to form memories faster than mice not given caffeine.

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