Moderate coffee consumption may promote brain health — and it’s not because of caffeine
“Coffee has been getting considerable attention for a growing list of health benefits, with brain health high among them. While not without a few downsides, studies have shown impressive upsides of moderate coffee consumption, often linked to its high caffeine content. But a new lab study suggests that when it comes to brain health, coffee offers more than the stimulating effects of our favorite legal drug–in fact, decaf could be just as effective…
The researchers added that most likely it’s a combination of compounds that provides the biggest benefits from drinking coffee, but the results indicate that phenylindanes—present in both caffeinated and decaf coffee (slightly more in dark roasts)—could be central to its neuroprotective effects.…“What this study does is take the epidemiological evidence and try to refine it and to demonstrate that there are indeed components within coffee that are beneficial to warding off cognitive decline,” said study co-author Dr. Ross Mancini. “The next step would be to investigate how beneficial these compounds are, and whether they have the ability to enter the bloodstream or cross the blood-brain barrier.”
Phenylindanes in Brewed Coffee Inhibit Amyloid-Beta and Tau Aggregation (Frontiers in Neuroscience). From the abstract:
- Coffee consumption has been correlated with a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD), but the mechanism by which coffee may provide neuroprotection in humans is not fully understood. We hypothesized that compounds found in brewed coffee may elicit neuroprotective effects by inhibiting the aggregation of amyloid-beta (A?) and tau (AD) or ?-synuclein (PD). Three instant coffee extracts (light roast, dark roast, decaffeinated dark roast) and six coffee components [caffeine (1), chlorogenic acid (2), quinic acid (3), caffeic acid (4), quercetin (5), and phenylindane (6)] were investigated for their ability to inhibit the fibrillization of A? and tau proteins…While the neuroprotective effect of coffee consumption is likely due to a combination of factors, our data suggest that inhibition A? and tau aggregation by phenylindane 6 (formed during the roasting of coffee beans, higher quantities found in dark roast coffees) is a plausible mechanism by which coffee may provide neuroprotection. The identification of 6 as a dual-inhibitor of both A? and tau aggregation is noteworthy, and to our knowledge this is the first report of the aggregation inhibition activity of 6.
The Study in Context:
- Study: With exceptions, moderate coffee drinking may help protect against mild cognitive impairment
- To learn more: Does Coffee Boost Brain/ Cognitive Functions Over Time?
“There is little doubt that drinking that morning cup of coffee will likely increase alertness, but the main questions that research is trying to answer go beyond that. Basically: is there a sustained, lifetime, benefit or harm from drinking coffee regularly?
The answer, so far, contains good news and bad news. The good news for coffee drinkers is that most of the long-term results are directionally more positive than negative, so no clear harm seems to occur. The bad news is that it is not clear so far whether caffeine has beneficial effects on general brain functions, either short-term or long-term (aged-related decline or risks of dementia).
It is important to note that many of the studies showing an effect of coffee consumption on brain functions or risks of dementia report a correlation or association (they are not randomized clinical trials). As you know, correlation doesn’t prove causation: coffee drinkers may seem to do well in a number in these long-term studies, but there may be other reasons why coffee drinkers do better.”