Coffee & Alzheimer’s dementia?

There’s good news for you coffee-addicts! The data on coffee has been coming out for the last few years. In 2012, a group from the NIH showed that coffee drinking was protective.(1) They looked at many different ways that people die, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, infections, and accidents. Their results showed that coffee reduced risk of mortality for everything except cancer – as long as those who drank coffee didn’t smoke. If people were smokers, coffee increased their risk for death from the various diseases.

A couple of years ago, scientists from Johns Hopkins conducted an even larger study, combining data from a huge number of studies (studies from 1966-2013) to determine the ‘bottom line’ on coffee.(2) The results included data from almost a million people. Again, coffee consumption was protective for death from cardiovascular disease, and reduced all cause mortality. Like the NIH study, the effect was dose dependent, meaning that the more coffee people drank, the less likely they were to die early, up to 4 cups a day.

Now a new study out of China has combined the data from many coffee studies. While coffee consumption didn’t impact risk of dementia, it did decrease the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.(3) And it didn’t make dementia worse. It just didn’t make it better. Could coffee have an effect on other neurological diseases? It could. Scientists just haven’t looked yet.

It’s important to remember that these studies are of coffee, not frappacinos with extra whip. Coffee is a great source for antioxidants. And since we know oxidative stress can make many diseases worse, it could be that the coffee’s medicinal effect is from its antioxidant capacity. Alternatively, it could be that people relax when they sit down with a cup of coffee – and relaxation is also healing. The point is, the studies above are epidemiological studies. They don’t tell us why coffee is healthy, only that it is. Enjoy your morning brew!

 

  1. Freedman ND1, Park Y, Abnet CC, Hollenbeck AR, Sinha R. Association of coffee drinking with total and cause-specific mortality. N Engl J Med. 2012 May 17;366(20):1891-904. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1112010.
  2. Crippa A, Discacciati A, Larsson SC, Wolk A, Orsini N. Coffee consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: a dose-response meta-analysis. Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Oct 15;180(8):763-75. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu194. Epub 2014 Aug 24.
  3. Liu QP, Wu YF, Cheng HY, Xia T, Ding H, Wang H, Wang ZM, Xu Y. Habitual coffee consumption and risk of cognitive decline/dementia: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Nutrition. 2016 Jun;32(6):628-36. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2015.11.015. Epub 2015 Dec 31.
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