Caffeine — along with 24 other compounds — could help to protect against dementia.
The protective effect comes from an enzyme called NMNAT2 that was discovered last year.
Professor Hui-Chen Lu, who led the study, said:
“This work could help advance efforts to develop drugs that increase levels of this enzyme in the brain, creating a chemical ‘blockade’ against the debilitating effects of neurodegenerative disorders.”
NMNAT2 plays a dual role.
It guards neurons against stress and helps fight the formation of the tangles of proteins that are linked to dementia.
Caffeine has already been shown to improve memory function in mice.
One study on humans has also linked caffeine to a 36% reduction in dementia.
Research has now shown that caffeine increases levels of the critical NMNAT2 protein in mice.
Professor Lu said:
“Increasing our knowledge about the pathways in the brain that appear to naturally cause the decline of this necessary protein is equally as important as identifying compounds that could play a role in future treatment of these debilitating mental disorders.”
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports (Ali et al., 2017).