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.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports (Ali et al., 2017).