Recently we published an article that included points on how caffeine might help protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. We received feedback on this, including a question about decaf coffee and what its role might be in all of this.
First things first: there are no absolute truths in any of this. For decades, we’ve continued to learn more about coffee’s health benefits, with analyses into whether it’s the caffeine or coffee’s natural ingredients leading the way. There remain many avenues of thought on this. Today, I’ll show you a couple of studies you might find interesting. (They are preliminary in that they are performed on mice, but
that’s where most of our health breakthroughs begin.)
RECOMMENDED: Coffee’s protective effects on endometrial cancer.
The issue is that there are promising findings on coffee’s ability to ward off dementia, though it’s not clear whether it’s the caffeine or other compounds in coffee. One study tested caffeine, regular coffee and decaf coffee in the mice’s drinking water. It found that neither caffeine alone or the decaf coffee provided the same protection as regular coffee.
Researchers believe that caffeine interacts with an unknown compound in coffee to increase blood levels of “Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor” (GCSF). This has a positive effect for neurons in the brain. People with Alzheimer’s have lower levels of GCSF. Treatment with it is shown to improve memory. Interestingly, mice in this study had been programmed to develop symptoms of
dementia — yet even still, those on the regular coffee had higher levels of GCSF and performed better than the others in memory tests. It was the equivalent of four cups a day or so.
So, in terms of decaf, this study would suggest it doesn’t hold the weight that caffeinated coffee does in shielding you from dementia.
Elsewhere, back in January, researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine did uncover a beneficial effect of decaf coffee. Also in mice, they found it may improve brain energy metabolism that’s associated with type 2 diabetes and that, when working poorly, is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. This study used a supplement that was standardized to a decaf coffee preparation. They were
testing it to see if it improved insulin and blood glucose levels in mice with type 2 diabetes.
After five months, the mice’s brains were able to more effectively metabolize glucose and use it for cellular energy. This effect is reduced in diabetics, and it is closely related to cognitive issues such as dementia. Thus, here we see that decaf coffee improves an aspect of brain function that could shield against dementia.
The takeaway message is that moderate coffee consumption could appreciably reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, with which five million Americans are currently afflicted. At this point, researchers do note that regular caffeinated coffee consumption is the type with this beneficial effect, not decaf.