April 3rd, 2008
People have long been in two minds about whether having a cup every day is actually beneficial or not – certainly, having too much caffeine has always been agreed to be risky. Well, lately a number of new studies have shown that the effects of drinking coffee in moderate amounts can have a number of very strong benefits for the brain. Previously, it was shown that that coffee cuts the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and now new studies have confirmed that coffee cuts down the damages of cholesterol and thereby reduces the risk of diseases such as dementia. Scientists call this “best evidence yet” for claiming that coffee is beneficial.
One of the experiments that was conducted was in rabbits in North Dakota that were fed a fat-rich diet. It was found that those rabbits that were given a caffeine supplement had a much better protected barrier between the brain and the main blood supply than the rabbits which were not. Similarly in humans, scientists say that there is a “blood brain barrier” which protects the brain from harmful chemicals carried in the blood. This barrier is said to become “leaky” if one consumes high levels of cholesterol, which contributes to the risk of mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Coffee strengthens this barrier, which means there is less potential for harmful chemicals to enter the brain.
As Dr Jonathan Geiger, who led the study explains:
“Caffeine appears to block several of the disruptive effects of cholesterol that make the blood-brain barrier leaky,” said Dr Jonathan Geiger, who led the study. High levels of cholesterol are a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, perhaps by compromising the protective nature of the blood brain barrier. Caffeine is a safe and readily available drug and its ability to stabilise the blood brain barrier means it could have an important part to play in therapies against neurological disorders.”
This is very promising news, especially for those who are currently researching into cures for Alzheimer’s disease. A spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Disease Society says:
“This is the best evidence yet that caffeine equivalent to one cup of coffee a day can help protect the brain against cholesterol. In addition to its effect on the vascular system, elevated cholesterol levels also cause problems with the blood brain barrier. This barrier, which protects the brain from toxins and infections, is less efficient prior to brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease or strokes.”
Coffee-lovers will be pleased that their favourite drink will also be protecting their brains for years to come.