The mouse study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease provides the first evidence that caffeinated coffee offers such protection, say the University of South Florida (USF) researchers.
According to the USF research team, the mystery ingredient can boost blood levels of a “critical growth factor” GCSF (granulocyte colony stimulating factor), a substance greatly decreased in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and demonstrated to improve memory in Alzheimer’s mice.
Other caffeine-containing drinks or decaffeinated coffee do not offer this protection, according to the researchers, who said they would like to pinpoint the unidentified component so that other beverages can be enriched with the ingredient.
“Hopefully, the coffee industry will soon become an active partner with Alzheimer’s researchers to find the protective ingredient in coffee and concentrate it in dietary sources,” said lead author Gary Arendash.
Methodology and results
In the study, the effects of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee were compared to those of caffeine alone on both Alzheimer's mice and normal mice.
For both groups, treatment with caffeinated coffee greatly increased blood levels of GCSF; neither caffeine alone or decaffeinated coffee provided this effect, said the researchers.
However, the USF team said that, since they used only “drip” coffee in their studies, they do not know whether “instant” caffeinated coffee would provide the same GCSF response.
The researchers said they have also now gathered clinical evidence of caffeine/coffee’s ability to protect humans against Alzheimer’s and will soon publish those findings.
GCSF can improve memory performance in the Alzheimer’s mice in a various ways, say the scientists. First, GCSF recruits stem cells from bone marrow to enter the brain and remove the harmful beta-amyloid protein that initiates the disease.
The substance also creates new connections between brain cells and increases the birth of new neurons in the brain.
“Caffeinated coffee provides a natural increase in blood GCSF levels,” said USF neuroscientist Dr. Chuanhai Cao, the study’s other lead author.
“The exact way that this occurs is not understood. There is a synergistic interaction between caffeine and some mystery component of coffee that provides this beneficial increase in blood GCSF levels.”
The USF researchers said they previously reported that four to five cups per day of coffee/caffeine is required to counteract the brain pathology and memory impairment in Alzheimer’s mice.
No other therapy
According to the researchers, no other Alzheimer’s therapy being developed comes close to meeting all the criteria that coffee offers.
“No synthetic drugs have yet been developed to treat the underlying Alzheimer’s disease process” said Arendash.
“We see no reason why an inherently natural product such as coffee cannot be more beneficial and safer than medications, especially to protect against a disease that takes decades to become apparent after it starts in the brain.”
Source: Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease
Caffeine Synergizes with Another Coffee Component to Increase Plasma GCSF: Linkage to Cognitive Benefits in Alzheimer’s Mice;
Authors: C. Cao, L. Wang, X. Lin, M. Mamcarz, C. Zhang, G. Bai, J. Nong, S.Sussman and G. Arendash
Published online ahead of print: DOI 10.3233