Protect Yourself Against Dementia With Caffeine

Fagjun | Published 2017-03-16 07:00

Dementia affects millions of people worldwide. Numbers are expected to rise as the population ages.

Caffeine, as well as 23 other compounds, can stimulate a brain enzyme that has proven useful in protecting against dementia.

A cup of joe in the morning doesn't just wake you up, scientists have found. It can also help you avoid neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington's disease, and Parkinson's disease. Alzheimer's disease is the most common of these disorders.

In 2015, an estimated 46.8 million people worldwide had dementia. This number may rise to 74.5 million by 2030. Dementia is a catch-all term that describes a range of symptoms that include a decline in memory and the inability to perform common tasks.

This aforementioned enzyme, nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyl transferase 2 (NMNAT2), serves two functions in the brain. It protects neurons from stress, and it fights off misfolded proteins called tau. As we age, these proteins accumulate in the brain like plaque accumulates on teeth. Scientists have found that these proteins play a role in the development of dementia.

Certain risk factors for this condition, like age and genetics, are unavoidable. However, the intake of certain nutrients and compounds can help lower the risks of developing this degenerative disease.

Caffeine vs Dementia

Researchers at Indiana University published a study on how caffeine and certain other compounds can help lower the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases. The team tested the effects of more than 1,280 compounds on the production of NMNAT2. Of all these compounds, the team found 24 that can help the brain produce more of the enzyme. 13 of the compounds, meanwhile, can potentially lower NMNAT2 levels.

One of these compounds was caffeine. Another was rolipram, which was in development as an antidepressant before its discontinuation 20 or so years ago. These two compounds exhibited a strong capability to stimulate NMNAT2 production. Other compounds include retinoic acid, wortmannin, ziprasidone, and cantharidin.

Earlier research has shown that caffeine improved memory in mice that produce high levels of tau proteins. The team of researchers for this study therefore gave caffeine to mice that produce lower levels of NMNAT2. They found that the mice began producing normal levels of NMNAT2 after the intake of caffeine.

Watching What You Eat and Drink

Luckily, caffeine is not hard to come by. There are around 60 natural sources of caffeine. These include coffee beans, tea leaves, kola nuts, and cocoa beans. A lot of beverages and foods have these as ingredients. Of course, you can also get your caffeine fix from soda, but there are so many other healthier alternatives.

The so-called “Mediterranean diet”, which is based on the diets of a number of countries around the Mediterranean sea, can also reduce the risks of dementia. This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grain, and sea food. It cuts down on red meat and prescribes the moderate consumption of alcohol.

Because dementia is a devastating condition, lowering your risks of developing it is certainly more than worth it. Changing your dietary patterns, adopting a healthier lifestyle, and consuming healthy levels of caffeine can all make a big difference.

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