Coffee Consumption and Health: The Final Word – Part 2
Written on November 16, 2011 at 7:49 am, by Eric Cressey
Today marks the second half of an article on coffee consumption from Brian St. Pierre. In case you missed the first half, check out Coffee Consumption and Health: The Final Word – Part 1.
Alzheimer’s and Coffee?
If you have ever worked in a hospital or assisted-living setting, you know that living with Alzheimer’s disease is not a fun thing. Well, I have some good news for you.
On top of all of the other wonderful benefits coffee has to offer, several studies have also found that people who drink about three cups per day had a marked reduction in cognitive impairment compared to those non-drinkers. Once you got up to four or more cups per day, though, the associated protection disappeared. This protection was not seen with tea or decaf coffee, so the benefit seems to be from the combination of the caffeine and some of coffee’s bioactive compounds.
Now, this is where it gets really interesting.
As noted above some as-yet-unknown bioactive compound in coffee interacts with its caffeine content, and is responsible for its association with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s. In fact, new research from the University of South Florida found that this combination boosts blood levels of a critical growth factor called GCSF (granulocyte colony stimulating factor) that seems to prevent the formation of Alzheimer’s disease.
GCSF is a substance that people with Alzheimer’s disease have less of than the rest of the population. It has been shown in mice with the disease that increasing GCSF improves memory.
“Caffeinated coffee provides a natural increase in blood GCSF levels,” said USF neuroscientist Dr. Chuanhai Cao, lead author of the study. “The exact way that this occurs is not understood. There is a synergistic interaction between caffeine and some mystery component of coffee that provides this beneficial increase in blood GCSF levels.”
In this study, the researchers compared the effects of regular and decaf coffee to those of caffeine alone. In both Alzheimer’s mice and normal mice, treatment with regular coffee dramatically increased blood levels of GCSF; neither caffeine alone nor decaf coffee provided this effect.
The researchers identified three ways that GCSF seems to improve memory performance in the Alzheimer’s mice.
First, GCSF recruits stem cells from bone marrow to enter the brain and remove the harmful beta-amyloid protein that initiates the disease. GCSF also creates new connections between brain cells and increases the birth of new neurons in the brain.
It is also important to point out that while this study was performed in mice, the researchers have indicated they also have evidence of this coffee consumption effect in humans and will publish their results soon.
“No synthetic drugs have yet been developed to treat the underlying Alzheimer’s disease process” said Dr. Gary Arendash, the study’s other lead author. “We see no reason why an inherently natural product such as coffee cannot be more beneficial and safer than medications, especially to protect against a disease that takes decades to become apparent after it starts in the brain.”
“Coffee is inexpensive, readily available, easily gets into the brain, appears to directly attack the disease process, and has few side-effects for most of us,” said Dr. Cao.
According to the researchers, no other Alzheimer’s therapy being developed comes close to meeting all these criteria. I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind enjoying a few cups of inexpensive coffee to significantly decrease my risk of such a debilitating disease.
Just like with all foods (and nutrients for that matter) there is a U-shaped curve on the benefits of coffee for those who can tolerate it. While some studies have found large intakes (5-6 cups) to have significant benefits, other research seems to show that coffee consumption that high tends to trend back down the curve. Some is good, but more might not be better, especially if you are a slow metabolizer.
Looking at the totality of data, it seems that 24oz of coffee per day will maximize the benefits while minimizing the risk. So, feel free to enjoy a few cups of joe and keep your brain, liver, gallbladder, prostate, breasts, upper GI tract, and heart healthy. Top off the day with a few cups of tea and plenty of fresh water, and your fluid intake will do wonders for your health and performance.
Note from EC: Alzheimer’s discussions hit very close to home for my family, as my grandfather passed away just over one year ago following a long battle with the disease. To that end, in order to help raise awareness, I’ll be donating $0.10 to the Alzheimer’s Association for every Tweet and Facebook share of this article by Friday at midnight. You can do so at the top of this page; thanks for your support.
About the Author
Brian St. Pierre is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He received his degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition with a focus in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Maine, and he is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the same institution. He was the Nutritionist and a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA for three years. He is also the author of the Show and Go Nutrition Guide, the accompanying nutrition manual to Eric Cressey’s Show and Go Training System.
With his passion for seeing his clients succeed, Brian is able to use his knowledge, experience, and energy to create highly effective training and nutrition programs for clients of any age and background. For more information, check out his website.
Is Dairy Healthy? The Whole Story – Part 1
Precision Nutrition’s Travel Strategies for Eating on the Road
Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
Eskelinen MH, et al. Midlife Coffee and Tea Drinking and the Risk of Late-Life Dementia: A Population-Based CAIDE Study. J Alzheimers Dis. January 2009. 16(1);85-91
Cao C, et al. Caffeine suppresses amyloid-beta levels in plasma and brain of Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice. J Alzheimers Dis. 2009;17(3):681-97.