Here is the next installment on our series on health benefits of coffee. I have asked Eve Pearce to continue to be our guest blogger writing these well researched articles.
Quality Coffee Rich in Nutrients Linked to Reduced Risk of Dementia
There are many reasons why coffee is enjoyed by millions of people across the United States every day, but there is increasing evidence that coffee consumption is good for our health. Not only has it been demonstrated to cut our risk of heart disease and diabetes, but there is a growing amount of research that indicates it can help to preserve our mental function, reducing the chance of dementia. This is of particular interest as the number of cases of dementia in America continues to rise, with estimates placing the current rate at almost 14% of those over the age of 70. While this is in part due to more of us living longer – around 37% of the over 90s are thought to be affected – environmental factors such as diet are thought to play an important role. Caffeine itself – which has previously received a bad name – is in part thought to protect our brain cells, but specialty coffee is higher in nutrients than many people realize. While much can be read about the link between coffee and the prevention of cognitive decline, either through the use of reputable scientific and medical websites or the rental of up to date nutrition textbooks from the likes of Valore Books, here we review current evidence and thinking on the topic.
Caffeine has long been known to act as a stimulant on the nervous system in the short term, but a number of studies have indicated that in the longer term caffeine is beneficial with regards to preventing the onset and progression of dementia.
A study published by researchers at the University of South Florida’s College of Pharmacy last year, found that in 124 subjects with mild cognitive impairment, those with the greatest rate of progression of cognitive decline over a four year period had significantly lower levels of caffeine in their blood. For those whose state of dementia was more stable, coffee appeared to be the main source of their caffeine intake.
A piece of research conducted in mice, reported in the journal Food Chemistry in 2012, showed that administering caffeine for a two month duration to mice with the equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease, led to a reduction in cognitive decline. The same piece of research indicated that levels of the plaques in the brain that are characteristic of this form of dementia, were reduced; these plaques are believed to cause oxidative stress, which triggers the death of nerve cells in the brain. In a previous study by researchers in Florida, who also used a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, it had been suggested that an equivalent caffeine consumption in humans equal to 500mg daily – around five cups of coffee – could potentially help to prevent or delay the advance of this form of dementia.
Nutrients to improve blood flow
However, as consumption of decaffeinated coffee also appears to offer benefits with regards to dementia, other components of coffee appear to be protective against cognitive decline. A number of nutrients found within coffee have been linked to improved circulation within the brain. Vascular dementia, which is the second most prevalent type of dementia following Alzheimer’s disease, is caused by disturbed blood flow to the brain. This form of dementia is very common after a stroke and it is thought that similar risk factors such as raised blood pressure and high cholesterol are at play.
Coffee provides a source of both potassium and magnesium, which numerous studies have shown are linked to a reduction in blood pressure. Just one cup of coffee provides over 10% of your daily requirement for the B vitamin, riboflavin; this helps to keep levels of homocysteine in check, which if allowed to rise lead to blood vessel damage and is linked to the onset of dementia. All coffee is also rich in antioxidants and research has suggested for some Americans it is their main source of these protective nutrients; fruit, vegetables and wholegrains are rich in these, but are not consumed in large enough quantities by many people. Coffee contains polyphenols, a large group of antioxidants, which have been linked to reduced inflammatory processes, which are another risk factor for dementia, as cell damage within the blood vessels can hasten their narrowing, therefore compromising blood flow to the brain. One study, which considered the antioxidant chlorogenic acid found in coffee, showed that its application led to significantly less cell damage of nerve cells in culture when exposed to oxidative substances.
While the taste and quality of Tap Dancers’ Specialty Coffee is second to none, if you did need another excuse to have an extra cup each day, its potential to stave off dementia is one very good reason. Whatever your current age, taking steps towards a nutrient rich diet, including consumption of our coffee, will help to maintain your cognitive function well into your seventies and beyond, ensuring you get the most out of your senior years.