A new study that is coming out from various Universities in Italy is piecing together data that shows constant coffee consumption can actually increase the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment. The study was led by researchers from various universities including the University of Bari Aldo Moro and the Geriatric Unit and Laboratory of Gerontology and Geriatrics.
In the study, researchers evaluated 1,445 individuals from a study that included 5,632 people, who were between the ages of 65 and 84. These participants were all part of the Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging, known as ILSA, which is a population-based sample from eight different Italian municipalities. There was a 3.5 year follow up study performed as well, and the results of the study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. MCI, or mild cognitive impairment, is a prodromal stage of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, which is all part of the neurodegenerative disorder for which there is no real effective cure or treatment. The identification and management of the risk factors for the disease right now is the best that researchers and doctors can do to help prevent mild cognitive impairment, which subsequently turns into full on Alzheimer’s Disease a lot of the time. Coffee is the best known psychoactive stimulant out there worldwide, which causes heightened arousal and alertness, and it is known to be an easy way to improve cognitive performance.
This study however is linking coffee to mild cognitive impairment, which means that maybe having that next cup of coffee is not such a good idea after all. When you want to know what the long-term effects of something is, you use the longitudinal population-based studies, which helps researchers find out the long-term effects on brain function. It has been noted previously with evidence that caffeine consumption, such as through tea or coffee can be a protection against cognitive impairments and dementia, but there are some exceptions to this rule. This study found that normal older adults, meaning adults without cognitive impairments who modified their drinking habits to include more than 1 cup of coffee everyday ended up with a twice as high rate of mild cognitive impairments, as opposed to the group of healthy adults who had drank less than one cup of coffee per day. The people who had habitually consumed moderate amounts of coffee a day, which is about 1 or 2 cups, had a reduced rate of incidence of mild cognitive impairment when compared with the group that never or rarely drank coffee. It is important to note that it is the group of people modifying their coffee habits to drink more that is seeing the increased incidence of mild cognitive impairment, and not the group that daily drinks 1 or 2 cups of coffee. There was no association found between the higher levels of coffee consumption, which is more than 2 cups a day, and the incidence of mild cognitive impairments when compared to the never or rarely drank coffee group.
Basically, the findings from the study shows that people who had never or rarely drank coffee and the group who increased their coffee consumption were the ones at the higher risk of developing mild cognitive impairments. This means that moderate and regular consumption of coffee still does have neuroprotective qualities to it in terms of helping protect against mild cognitive impairs. This also means that the previous studies results are being confirmed, since those studies did say coffee, tea and other caffeine-containing products did have a long-term protective effect against cognitive decline and dementia.
The authors of this study believe that the long-term neuroprotective effects of caffeine can involve a competitive antagonism of excessive activation of adenosine A2A receptors, which can attenuate damage caused by a beta amyloid, which is the toxic peptide that accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s Disease. The authors of the study say that longer term studies will need to be done in order to confirm the results of the study and also to see if there are any long-term negative effects on the brain. There is still a lot that is not known about Alzheimer’s Disease or just how much of our diets are associated with the development of the plaques that cause Alzheimer’s Disease. This study does though show you that you should go from drinking less than a cup of coffee a day to drinking 2 or 3 cups of coffee a day, since that is something that changes in the brain in a way to promote Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. You should really stick to moderate coffee consumption if that is something you already do, but be mindful that trying to increase when you are not a moderate coffee drinker can have the same negative effects as drinking too little coffee. For people who don’t drink coffee, they can drink tea and get the same neuroprotective benefits, although it’s not clear what type of tea is best for preventing Alzheimer’s Disease. The important thing from this study to take away is that the coffee consumption habits are what really impacts whether or not there is a risk of mild cognitive impairment, and it is not really as cut and dry as previously thought.