There have been many stories and research in the past linking caffeine and coffee drinking to dementia prevention, but the question has remained as to why? New research, published in the Journal Scientific Reports, has delved one step further to figuring this out.
Researchers from USA screened over 1,280 compounds and identified 24, one of which includes caffeine, which increases the production of an enzyme, known as NMNAT2, in the brain.
What is NMNAT2?
NMNAT2 is a brain enzyme which has been found to have a protective effect for brain health. It is suggested to have two significant roles:
“This work could help advance efforts to develop drugs that increase levels of this enzyme in the brain, creating a chemical ‘blockade’ against the debilitating effects of neurodegenerative disorders,” said Dr Hui Chen Lui who led the study based at Indiana University in the USA.
But how is caffeine linked to brain health?
As stated above, one of the 24 compounds found to enhance NMNAT2 production, was caffeine.
To confirm the result, the researchers specifically administered caffeine to mice genetically modified to produce lower levels of NMNAT2. They found that the mice given the caffeine started to produce the same levels of the enzyme as the control (or non-modified) mice.
“Increasing our knowledge about the pathways in the brain that appear to naturally cause the decline of this necessary protein is equally as important as identifying compounds that could play a role in future treatment of these debilitating mental disorders,” Dr Chen Lui said.
Coffee has caffeine, does this mean you should drink lots of coffee each day?
According to a review published in The Conversation during October 2016, co-authored by Australian dementia expert, Scientia Professor Henry Brodaty and nutrition expert Professor Clare Collins, it isn’t quite that simple. Many other factors apart from just coffee drinking need to be taken into consideration, such as your diet, exercise and overall health before you can fully assess its benefits. You can read the full review at The Conversation.
What this new study does suggest, however, is that caffeine may have a beneficial effect on brain health related to dementia prevention but it needs to be acknowledged that more research is required to confirm these results.