New Study Shows Coffee May Help Prevent Alzheimer's
Two or three 40-milliliter cups of espresso per day may keep Alzheimer’s at bay.
Good news, espresso lovers: A recent paper offers evidence that the coffee delicacy may prevent the proliferation of a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The study, published on July 19 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, demonstrates that naturally occurring espresso compounds, including whole coffee extract, caffeine, and the isoflavone genistein, possess biological properties that keep these proteins from setting off a chain of activity.
Alzheimer’s is part of a group of neurodegenerative diseases called tauopathies, which are marked by deposits of the abnormal tau protein in the brain. The mere presence of tau proteins, however, isn’t any indication of a disorder. Tau proteins abound in healthy brain cells, stabilizing the internal microtubules that help transport nutrients within the neuron.
In Alzheimer’s, the abnormal tau protein makes these microtubules collapse, leading to cell degeneration. Abnormal tau accumulation also persists as Alzheimer’s progresses, linking the protein’s buildup to the disease. The total amount of this molecule correlates with disease stage and severity. However, some of espresso’s components seem able to mitigate the buildup of abnormal tau proteins.
Building on prior research on links between coffee and cognitive decline prevention, the study’s team from the University of Verona in Italy focused on how coffee compounds affected these pernicious protein clumps. They used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to analyze espresso’s chemical composition. This method leverages magnetic fields to create a potential energy transfer in an atom’s electrically charged nucleus. The energy transfer emits a signal that portrays the nucleus’s NMR spectrum, which depicts an organic compound’s structure.
These compounds incubated with abnormal tau proteins for up to 40 hours at varying temperatures. Increase in concentration of caffeine, genistein, and whole espresso extract corresponded with shorter tau protein clumps that were less likely to amass compared to incubations without coffee compounds. The researchers conclude that caffeine especially inhibits tau aggregation activity. They also note that past NMR experiments have shown that caffeine has the ability to bind to tau fibers, which may spur this ability. This means that caffeine could prove beneficial for the prevention and treatment of tauopathies.
The researchers add that “moderate coffee consumption” at two or three 40-milliliter servings of espresso per day “may provide a sufficient amount of bioactive molecules to act separately or synergistically as modulators of tau protein aggregation and toxicity.”
So if you’re tempted to add an extra shot to your latte, know that it may do you some good.