From Our 2009 Archives

Caffeine May Fight Alzheimer's Memory Loss

Drinking Coffee May Combat Brain Protein Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

July 6, 2009 -- Getting your daily caffeine hit may help keep your memory sharp.

A new study shows caffeine reversed memory loss in mice bred to develop Alzheimer's disease and reduced the level of beta-amyloid protein in the blood and brain. Plaques containing beta-amyloid protein are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease.

"The new findings provide evidence that caffeine could be a viable 'treatment' for established Alzheimer's disease, and not simply a protective strategy," researcher Gary Arendash, PhD, a neuroscientist at the University of South Florida, says in a news release. "That's important because caffeine is a safe drug for most people, it easily enters the brain, and it appears to directly affect the disease process."

Caffeine Reduces Memory Loss

In the study, mice bred to develop symptoms of Alzheimer's disease were given 500 milligrams of caffeine (equivalent to five cups of regular coffee) in their daily drinking water once they started developing memory problems at age 18 to 19 months, about age 70 in human years.

After two months, the mice that drank the caffeinated water performed much better on tests of their memory and thinking skills -- to the level of normal mice of the same age. Those given plain water continued to do poorly on these tests. The study also showed that the brains of the caffeinated mice experienced a nearly 50% reduction in the level of beta-amyloid.

The researchers also looked at long-term caffeine treatment in normal mice. With 10 months of caffeine treatment, there was no improvement in memory and thinking skills.

Based on these findings, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, Arendash and colleagues say they plan to start human trials to see whether caffeine can benefit people with early signs of Alzheimer's disease.

SOURCES: Arendash, G. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, July 2009; vol 17: pp 661-680. News release, University of South Florida.

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