Americans love their coffee so, it is good news to many people that coffee consumption may have a neuroprotective effect, reducing a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease as well as Alzheimer’s disease. That is according to new research conducted at the University of Toronto and the Krembil Research Institute in Canada.
Many previous studies have proposed a relationship between consumption of coffee and a reduced risk of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. For this study, the scientists decided to dig a bit deeper. Particularly, they observed how different compounds in three different types of coffee extracts— dark roast, light roast, and decaffeinated dark roast — affected the assembly of three compounds in the brain.
Those compounds are amyloid-beta and amyloid-tau, amino acids which appear in greater concentrations in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease as well as alpha-synuclein, a protein that causes the development of Parkinson’s disease.
The scientists found that compounds called phenylindanes in coffee had a major effect on preventing the clumping of two amyloids in the lab. These amyloid clumps, often stated as plaques are commonly deliberated as the key sign of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Dark-roasted coffee extracts did best against the formation of this plaque, both in caffeinated and decaffeinated form, although all three extracts had some advantage.
More than just caffeine
Research also proposes that the presence of caffeine didn’t influence the effectiveness of coffee in inhibiting the formation of amyloid plaque.
Many prior studies observed the effect of coffee on the expansion of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias often chosen caffeine, including one research from the University of Florida in 2012. They found greater levels of caffeine in the blood of those people who didn’t develop dementia than those who did.
This recent research proposes the phenylindane compounds, produced during the roasting process of coffee bean, may play a major role instead. That discovery could point to a prevention tool or possible treatment against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s in the future.
These compounds would be more preferable as they occur naturally and wouldn’t have to be made unnaturally, says Dr. Donald Weaver, who is a chemistry professor at the University of Toronto and a research co-author.
“Mother Nature is able to make these compounds, therefore, it is a better chemist than we are,” he said. “If you have a complex compound, it is better to produce it in a crop, harvest and grind the crop out and extract it instead of making it.”
Should you take more coffee?
Will more coffee consumption actually reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease?
It is much difficult to say at this point.
“This is research in a plate,” Keith Fargo, Ph.D., director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association, told. “Actually, this is not a proven trial of coffee. From the perspective of the public, I want to make sure that people don’t take away the thought ‘I should be drinking more coffee or darker coffee.’”
“What this research does is take the epidemiological data and try to improve it and to reveal that there are beneficial components within coffee which are warding off mental decline,” he wrote in a press release. “It is very interesting but we are absolutely not suggesting that coffee is a cure.”
In fact, there aren’t many controlled clinical trials — the so-called “gold standard” of research — on the effects of coffee consumption on Parkinson’s disease and dementia. It is purely more suggestive proof for the pile.
Still, there’s a lot of suggestive evidence that drinking an adequate amount of coffee daily is healthy. And very little evidence to suggest any harm to moderate coffee consumption like three to five cups.