Drinking coffee could protect against both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, new research suggests.
The study looked at compounds in coffee called phenylindanes, which may help protect against dementia.
Higher levels of phenylindanes typically make coffee taste more bitter.
Dr Donald Weaver, study co-author, said:
“Coffee consumption does seem to have some correlation to a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
But we wanted to investigate why that is — which compounds are involved and how they may impact age-related cognitive decline.”
The study examined how phenylindanes interact with two proteins that are critical to the development of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The results showed that phenylindanes inhibit both beta amyloid and tau proteins.
The researchers also compared dark roast, light roast and decaffeinated coffees.
It found that dark roasts had the highest quantities of phenylindanes.
Caffeine, though, made no difference, explained Dr Ross Mancini, the study’s first author:
“The caffeinated and de-caffeinated dark roast both had identical potencies in our initial experimental tests.
So we observed early on that its protective effect could not be due to caffeine.”
Dr Weaver said it is a major advantage that coffee is a natural crop:
“Mother Nature is a much better chemist than we are and Mother Nature is able to make these compounds.
If you have a complicated compound, it’s nicer to grow it in a crop, harvest the crop, grind the crop out and extract it than try to make it.”
More work will be required before therapies can be developed, Dr Weaver said:
“What this study does is take the epidemiological evidence and try to refine it and to demonstrate that there are indeed components within coffee that are beneficial to warding off cognitive decline.
It’s interesting but are we suggesting that coffee is a cure?
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 Frontiers in Neuroscience (Mancini et al., 2018).