Almost as if by some miracle, the caffeine present in coffee can reduce drowsiness and it can increase our state of wakefulness.  But the caffeine found in coffee and elsewhere (soft drinks, dark chocolate, tea etc.) is also the subject in some promising research studies.  I had previously read some articles which suggested that coffee may do more than alter our state of alertness.  Interestingly, it may slow the development of the Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), a form of dementia that affects about 5.4 million people in the U.S.  How?


Coffee by flickr user: anthony_p_c
Caffeine: C8H10N4O2

 

First, some background information.

One of the hallmarks of AD is the presence of extracellular plaques and intracellular neurofibrillary tangles in brain tissue.  The plaques contain β-amyloid (Aβ) proteins and the tangles arise from an abnormal phosphorylation of tau protein.  Eventually, the buildup of these proteins damages nerve synapses enough to cause a decline in cognition and changes in behavior.  Genetic and environmental factors are both involved in the onset and level of progression of AD.

 

Neurological damage leads to the decrease of cortical and hippocampal size. The hippocampus is involved in memory processing.

 

The most common form of AD (late onset) is thought to be caused by the inability to clear Aβ protein from the brain.  Silverberg et al. has pointed to evidence that the production and turnover of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) helps clear toxic molecules like Aβ from the interstitial fluid space of the brain to the blood stream.  In the figure below,  AD is represented by the pink rectangles and shows a lower CSF production rate than the age matched control groups PD and Acute HC.

 

CSF production rates in four groups of patients: AD, Parkinson's Disease (PD), acute hyrdocephalus (HC), and normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH).

 

Here is where caffeine comes in.  Retrospective studies have evaluated caffeine intake in the 20 years before AD was diagnosed and it was noted that regular caffeine consumption decreased the probability that the patient would develop the disease.  Caffeine may work against AD by improving the production of CSF which is known for its ability to clear away toxic molecules like Aβ proteins which cause brain tissue damage.  Indeed, caffeine treatment shows higher levels of CSF production (as shown in the figure below from the article by Han and colleagues) compared to the control group.   Higher levels of CSF in this study were associated with the increased expression of Na+ – K+ ATPase and increased cerebral blood flow.  This Na+ – K+ ATPase is an essential driving force of CSF production by exchanging 3 Na+ ions for 2 K+ ions across the cell membrane.

 

Treatment with caffeine increases CSF production but acute caffeine treatment lowers it.

 

You’ll see that CSF production falls with acute caffeine treatment and suggests that caffeine is effective up to a certain point.  This complicates matters, since the exact mechanism for caffeine’s action via adenosine receptors to increase CSF production is not well understood.   In addition, Han’s study was conducted in rats so we have to be careful with how much is extrapolated from such animal experiments.  Still, these kinds of studies are something that more and more researchers are paying attention to since it is probable that caffeine is doing something to help prevent the development of AD at the neuronal level.

 

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20 Responses to “Caffeine and Alzheimer’s Disease”

  1. Djembe

    Thank you for this post. I have to ask though: how sure are you about this?

    Reply
    • sierram

      From the articles I’ve read I can tell there is an association between caffeine consumption and AD. We should always remember that correlation does not imply causation. Nonetheless, keep looking out for the literature in AD research.

      Reply
  2. Chris Knight

    Fantastic reference, thanks for sharing! Good luck.

    Reply
    • Vashti Durboraw

      Doctor to patient, Pete, I have good news and bad news

      Reply
    • Jack Diem

      Found your site on another blog post, great content, but the site looks awkward in Chrome, but works fine in IE. Go figure.

      Reply
      • Andrew Pelt

        Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is wonderful blog. A fantastic read. I’ll definitely be back.

        Reply
  3. Alida Fiorenza

    I’m very grateful for the ideas you have provided here. One more thing I would like to say is your webdesign. Did you create it yourself or outsourced it?

    Reply
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      Thanks! I used Altahualpa from common WordPress designs with a customized banner.

      Reply
  4. Heriberto Crispino

    The article was still worth reading. go for it!

    Reply
  5. 花蓮旅遊

    Very interesting; thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  6. romans

    I’m not sure what to think really. A budof mine was arguing at me the other day about something similar to this, but I have a difficult time defending my positions on the spot without preparation.

    Reply
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    Reply
  8. visit

    Myself plus a good friend have been discussing this the other day. We often disagree too much, although I guess a good group of good friends are going to do that.

    Reply
  9. Andrew

    That’s it! Everyone load up on caffeine! I’m sure this a dumb question but is this for all caffeine and not just the caffeine found in coffee beans? As in, caffeine pills would potentially offer these benefits as well?

    Reply
  10. aphthous

    This is usually a tad off-topic, however the structure here goes really well. I usually have challenges when ever I put together a website with the intent of making it seem halfway respectable.

    Reply
  11. volvocar

    It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

    Reply
  12. Dawn Strassel

    Great blog here! Also your website loads up very fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

    Reply
  13. chatter

    This story is going to boost that issue in some detail.

    Reply
  14. noor

    Thanks that is what I was looking for.

    Reply
  15. Bobsen

    Good to see that this college is going to do something about it

    Reply

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