|Coffee 'may reverse Alzheimer's'|
|By Staff and Wire Reports|
|Monday, 06 July 2009 10:44|
Scientists have uncovered powerful evidence that caffeine not only helps to stave off the disease but can treat it.
They hope soon to follow up the initial results from animal experiments with human patient trials. Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said: "In this study on mice with symptoms of Alzheimer's, researchers found that caffeine boosted their memory.
"We need to do more research to find out whether this effect will be seen in people. It is too early to say whether drinking coffee or taking caffeine supplements will help people with Alzheimer's.
"With no cure yet, research into treatments that could help people with Alzheimer's is vital."
Neuroscientist Dr Gary Arendash, who led the research, said: "The new findings provide evidence that caffeine could be a viable 'treatment' for established Alzheimer's disease, and not simply a protective strategy.
"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."
The Florida scientists became interested in caffeine's effect on Alzheimer's several years ago after Portuguese researchers found that sufferers drank less coffee than people without the disease.
Since then several studies have suggested that moderate caffeine consumption protects against memory decline during normal ageing.
The new research was reported in two studies published online today in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
Another story published in BBC News states that the 55 mice used in the University of South Florida study had been bred to develop symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
First the researchers used behavioural tests to confirm the mice were exhibiting signs of memory impairment when they were aged 18 to 19 months, the equivalent to humans being about 70.
Then they gave half the mice caffeine in their drinking water. The rest were given plain water.
The mice were given the equivalent of five 8 oz (227 grams) cups of coffee a day - about 500 milligrams of caffeine.
The researchers say this is the same as is found in two cups of "specialty" coffees such as lattes or cappuccinos from coffee shops, 14 cups of tea, or 20 soft drinks.
When the mice were tested again after two months, those who were given the caffeine performed much better on tests measuring their memory and thinking skills and performed as well as mice of the same age without dementia.
Those drinking plain water continued to do poorly on the tests.
In addition, the brains of the mice given caffeine showed nearly a 50% reduction in levels of the beta amyloid protein, which forms destructive clumps in the brains of dementia patients.
Further tests suggested caffeine affects the production of both the enzymes needed to produce beta amyloid.
The researchers also suggest that caffeine suppresses inflammatory changes in the brain that lead to an overabundance of the protein.
Earlier research by the same team had shown younger mice, who had also been bred to develop Alzheimer's but who were given caffeine in their early adulthood, were protected against the onset of memory problems.