How coffee protects the brain

Thank God for small favors!!!

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Scientists have now proved that drinking certain types of coffee can be beneficial to brain health, but how does this popular brew support cognitive function? A new study identifies some of the mechanisms that allow coffee to keep mental decline at bay.

According to data from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, about 54 percent of all adults in the United States drink coffee on a daily basis.

While drinking coffee can bring both benefits and risks for a person’s health, a 2016 study from the University of Ulster in Coleraine, United Kingdom, concluded that the health benefits of moderate coffee consumption “clearly outweigh” the potential risks.

One of these benefits is that coffee seems to protect the brain against cognitive impairments and boost thinking skills.

“Coffee consumption does seem to have some correlation to a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,” notes Dr. Donald Weaver, who is co-director of the Krembil Brain Institute.

“But we wanted to investigate why that is — which compounds are involved and how they may impact age-related cognitive decline,” he adds.

Dr. Weaver and team’s findings — published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience — suggest that the key to coffee’s brain-protecting benefits lie not in its caffeine content, but in the existence of compounds released in the process of roasting the coffee beans.

In the current study, the researchers decided to look into the effects of three types of coffee: caffeinated dark roast, caffeinated light roast, and decaffeinated dark roast.

“The caffeinated and decaffeinated dark roast both had identical potencies in our initial experimental tests. So we observed early on that its protective effect could not be due to caffeine,” says study co-author Dr. Ross Mancini, a research fellow in medicinal chemistry.

Gradually, all the links fell into place, as the researchers started focusing on a set of compounds called phenylindanes, which form during the process of roasting coffee beans and lend coffee its bitter flavor.

It is the phenylindanes, rather than any other coffee-related compounds, that seem to inhibit the amalgamation of tau and beta-amyloid. These are toxic proteins, of which the excessive buildup in the brain is a key factor in neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

“So phenylindanes are a dual inhibitor. Very interesting, we were not expecting that,” Dr. Weaver acknowledges.

 

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