Can coffee keep Alzheimer's disease away?

alzheimer'sResearchers have demonstrated for the first time that caffeine has a positive effect on tau deposits in Alzheimer's disease. Tau deposits, along with beta-amyloid plaques, are among the characteristic features of Alzheimer's disease. These protein deposits disrupt the communication of the nerve cells in the brain and contribute to their degeneration. Despite intensive research there is no drug available to date which can prevent this detrimental process.

Based on the results of Prof. Dr. Christa Muller from the University of Bonn, Dr. David Blum and their team, a new class of drugs may now be developed for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Caffeine, an adenosine receptor antagonist, blocks various receptors in the brain which are activated by adenosine. Initial results of the team of researchers had already indicated that the blockade of the adenosine receptor subtype A2A in particular could play an important role. (Read: New gene linked to Alzheimer's identified)

Initially, Prof. Muller and her colleagues developed an A2A antagonist in ultrapure and water-soluble form (designated MSX-3). This compound had fewer adverse effects than caffeine since it only blocks only the A2A adenosine receptor subtype, and at the same time it is significantly more effective. Over several weeks, the researchers then treated genetically altered mice with the A2A antagonist. The mice had an altered tau protein which, without therapy, leads to the early development of Alzheimer's symptoms. (Read: Indian scientists find clue to Alzheimer's cure in deadly snake's venom)

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In comparison to a control group which only received a placebo, the treated animals achieved significantly better results on memory tests. The A2A antagonist displayed positive effects in particular on spatial memory. Also, an amelioration of the pathogenic processes was demonstrated in the hippocampus, which is the site of memory in rodents. The results have been published online in the journal Neurobiology of Aging. (Read: Alzheimer's disease where does it originate from?)

What is Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative mental disease that causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour. It is the most common form of dementia and is commonly seen in the elderly. While the chances of developing the disease increase with age, it is now seen that younger people are also now being diagnosedwith the disease.

During the course of Alzheimer's disease, nerve cells in areas of the brain that control language, reasoning, sensory processing, and conscious thought die due to plaque deposition. Symptoms include confusion, mood swings, impaired reasoning or judgement, long-term memory loss and a gradual loss of bodily functions.Dementia is the most prominently visible symptom. People with Alzheimer's begin to have problems recognising family and friends. They also find it exceptionally difficult to learn new things, carry out tasks that involve multiple steps (like getting dressed) and cope with new situations. They might suffer from insomnia. In the more severe stages of Alzheimer's disease, the brain completely shrinks and they become increasinglydependent on others.

The diagnosis of Alzheimer's is usually based on collective symptoms and family history. Other tests that can be performed are mental status tests and radiological tests. A recent advancement in the diagnosis of the disease is the use of biomarkers. Current treatments for Alzheimer's are based on treating the symptoms but they do not eliminate the cause. The best way to slow the process and prevent it from progressing is early medical intervention. The earlier the condition is identified, the better the prognosis. Treatments include medications for memory loss and treatments for behavioural and sleep changes. (Read: Alzeimer's disease it's more common than you think)

With inputs from ANI

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