Over the last decade, Food Regulation Authorities have concluded that coffee/caffeine consumption is not harmful if consumed at levels of 200 mg in one sitting (around 2 1/2 cups of coffee) or 400 mg daily @around 5 cups of coffee).
In addition, caffeine has many positive actions on the brain. It can increase alertness and well-being, help concentration, improve mood and limit depression. Caffeine can potentiate the effect of regular analgesic drugs in headache and migraine. Lifelong coffee/caffeine consumption has been associated with prevention of cognitive decline, and reduced risk of developing stroke, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, daily coffee and caffeine intake can be part of a healthy balanced diet; its consumption does not need to be stopped in elderly people.
Approximately 25 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease worldwide, making it the most prevalent form of dementia. The incidence of Alzheimer’s increases dramatically with age. These conditions make it all the more urgent to find ways to alleviate symptoms and ultimately, cure the disease itself.
Over the last 20 years scientists have identified many factors that can in fact delay the onset of the disease, and are now investigating whether they can be used in a preventive way. A large population study has enabled them to identify the most significant modifiable factors in the onset of dementia. Certain factors stand out – particularly diabetes, depression, diet, stroke and ApoE4; which is the main genetic factor. Diet is crucial among them, and although diets differ in different parts of the world, an international common feature is often coffee consumption.
Coffee was once thought of as a psycho-stimulant – a temporary solution to pick ourselves up intellectually. This perception started to change as the body of evidence grew on the relationship between coffee and cognitive decline. And the relationship between coffee, cognitive functioning, and dementia has turned out to be particularly interesting.
Scientists working with transgenic mice, found that those who were fed caffeine had lower levels of amyloid plaques, which are little plaques that accumulate in the brain with Alzheimer’s disease and are also present in people who present rapid cognitive decline, even though they might not develop Alzheimer’s disease.
A Japanese study following subjects 65 and older for over 5 years noted coffee consumption was significantly associated with a lower risk of incident dementia. In addition, this significant inverse association was more remarkable among women, non-smokers and non-drinkers.
Scientists are unsure whether or not they are going to observe a reduction in the number of cases of Alzheimer’s disease, but it seems highly likely that there is a cause and effect relationship.