Caffeine May Prevent and Help Reverse Alzheimer's Disease

Sunday, August 02, 2009 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: caffeine, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) There is probably no more dreaded and feared disease than memory-destroying and life-robbing Alzheimer's. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), as many as 2.4 to 4.5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and, as Baby Boomers age, those numbers are expected to soar. Unfortunately, despite millions spent on research and the development of drugs to delay or help symptoms, the bottom line is nothing works to truly prevent, stop or heal the disease. At least, nothing from Big Pharma. The National Institutes of Health's NIA web site does list some natural strategies -- a nutritious diet, exercise, social engagement, and mentally stimulating pursuits -- which may prevent or delay AD. But now there's new and stunning research that strongly suggests a substance found in nature offers another a way to fight Alzheimer's and maybe even reverse its effects: caffeine.

In experiments with lab mice especially bred to develop symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, University of South Florida (USF) researchers at the Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center ADRC gave the aged animals the equivalent of the caffeine in five cups of coffee a day. The results? Their severe memory impairment was reversed.

This study, along with other AD research by the same group of scientists, was just published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Both studies show that caffeine significantly decreased abnormal levels of beta amyloid (the protein linked to AD) in both the brains and blood of lab rodents who had symptoms of Alzheimer's. This research follows on the heels of previous ADRC research that found caffeine given to this same strain of mice when they were young prevented memory problems from developing -- even though the animals were bred to develop Alzheimer's symptoms as they grew old.

"The new findings provide evidence that caffeine could be a viable 'treatment' for established Alzheimer's disease, and not simply a protective strategy," said lead author Gary Arendash, PhD, a USF neuroscientist with the Florida ADRC, in a statement to the media. "That's important because caffeine is a safe drug for most people, it easily enters the brain, and it appears to directly affect the disease process."

Dr. Arendash and his research team began investigating caffeine's ability to possibly treat Alzheimer's after they read a Portuguese study conducted a few years ago that found people with Alzheimer's had consumed far less caffeine over the last 20 years than people who never came down with AD. There have also been several uncontrolled clinical studies that have noted moderate caffeine consumption seems to offer protection against memory decline during normal aging. So the ADRC scientists decided to conduct highly controlled experiments using Alzheimer's afflicted mice in order to distinguish the effects caffeine might actually have on memory from other lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise.

The Florida ADRC study used 55 of the genetically altered mice who develop memory problems identical to Alzheimer's disease as they become old. Behavior tests were conducted to confirm the mice were experiencing memory problems when they reached the age of 18 to 19 months, the equivalent of a human who's around 70. Then the scientists gave half the mice caffeine-laced water -- in all, they received the equivalent of five eight oz. cups of regular coffee a day. As a control, the other half of the mice in the study group received plain water.

After two months, the caffeinated mice could perform much better on tests designed to measure their memory and ability to think. Although the mice that drank plain water continued to show mental deterioration, the mice on caffeine not only had stopped losing their memories, their memories were identical to normal aged mice without dementia. Moreover, the caffeinated mice showed an approximate 50 percent reduction in beta amyloid, the substance linked to sticky lumps of plaques in the brain that are the key sign of Alzheimer's disease.

More experiments by the same research team suggest that caffeine has the ability to restore memory by reducing the enzymes needed to produce beta amyloid. In fact, the Florida scientists think caffeine may suppress inflammatory changes in the brain that lead to the AD-associated increase of beta amyloid.

"These are some of the most promising Alzheimer's mouse experiments ever done showing that caffeine rapidly reduces beta amyloid protein in the blood, an effect that is mirrored in the brain, and this reduction is linked to cognitive benefit," Huntington Potter, PhD, director of the Florida ADRC and an investigator for the caffeine studies, said in the media statement. "Our goal is to obtain the funding needed to translate the therapeutic discoveries in mice into well-designed clinical trials."

Based on their groundbreaking findings in mice, scientists at Florida ADRC and Byrd Alzheimer's Center at USF want to carry out human trials to see if caffeine can benefit people with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer's disease. There's strong reason to think caffeine can fight AD. The researchers have already determined in preliminary studies that caffeine given to elderly non-demented humans quickly affects their blood levels of beta amyloid, just as it did in the Alzheimer's lab animals.

If larger, well documented and controlled clinical studies do confirm caffeine can prevent and/or treat Alzheimer's in humans, as it does in mice, the ramifications will be nothing short of mind-boggling. According to the Alzheimer's Association, at least half of the US population 85 and older have or end up with AD and the disease and other dementias triple healthcare costs for Americans 65 and older, in addition to causing untold suffering .

Editor's note: NaturalNews is opposed to the use of animals in medical experiments that expose them to harm. We present these findings in protest of the way in which they were acquired. We are also opposed to the idea of using large volumes of caffeine as a "treatment" for Alzheimer's, especially given the adrenal depletion caused by ongoing caffeine consumption. The conclusions presented in this story are interesting, but in no way does NaturalNews condone the regular consumption of caffeine as a brain stimulant.

References :
Caffeine Reverses Cognitive Impairment and Decreases Brain Amyloid-B Levels in Aged Alzheimer's Disease Mice; Gary W Arendash, Takashi Mori, Chuanhai Cao, Malgorzata Mamcarz, Melissa Runfeldt, Alexander Dickson, Kavon Rezai-Zadeh, Jun Tan, Bruce A Citron, Xiaoyang Lin, Valentina Echeverria, and Huntington Potter; Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, Volume 17:3 (July 2009).

Caffeine Suppresses Amyloid-B Levels in Plasma and Brain of Alzheimer's Disease Transgenic Mice; Chuanhai Cao, John R Cirrito, Xiaoyang Lin, Lilly Wang, Deborah K Verges, Alexander Dickson, Malgorzata Mamcarz, Chi Zhang, Takashi Mori, Gary W Arendash, David M Holzman, and Huntington Potter; Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, Volume 17:3 (July 2009

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