Submitted by Rebecca Montrone, Wondrous Roots, Inc.
As a nutritionist and holistic health practitioner - and one who has always rather enjoyed being contrary - I love finding information that flies in the face of the many popular misconceptions when it comes to health, especially among those in my own focus of the field. Some of my favorite topics to debunk include:
• The current FDA-approved "food pyramid" that places sugar at the foundational level; i.e., grain, with yet more sugar in the form of dangerous fructose just one level up; i.e., fruit
• The role of cholesterol in preserving health (sits right at the top of the hormonal cascade; all hormone synthesis depends on adequate levels of this "lord and giver of life," from the adrenal glands to the thyroid gland and cascading down into all of the sex hormones - notice a difference in your sex life since you started taking Lipitor?)
• The supposed health benefits of not salting food (let's keep the government away from our restaurant menus please, Mayor Bloomberg!)
• Tofu, soy milk, soy cheese, soybean oil, soy flour, and soy "nuts" as "health foods"
• Dairy foods as "bad foods" (all of the "we're not baby cows" nonsense)
• The supposed health benefits of long-intensity cardio workouts (the "no pain, no gain" nonsense)
• The supposed health benefits of a low-fat diet and of modified low-fat versions of real whole foods
• The simple "calories in/calories out" theory of healthy fat loss
Given that, you can imagine my glee when I read this news, published in "The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease" just last year. The admonitions regarding caffeine consumption abound both in the popular AMA-generated and holistic health press. By the way, when I say "holistic," I'm not talking about crystals, psychics, "intuitive healing," etc. I never adopted what I refer to as the "shee-shee, woo-woo" aspects of what has come to be associated with the term "holistic." Holistic simply means viewing the body not as a complex of isolated systems but as, scientifically correct, systems that crucially interrelate with one another, and then looking at the person as a whole; body, spirit, mind. Science validates this philosophy, as well, with many studies correlating how we think, what we believe, and how we behave with how healthy we are.
But...I digress! Back to coffee, caffeine, and Alzheimer's disease. Based on the fact that "...Epidemiologic studies have increasingly suggested that caffeine/coffee could be an effective therapeutic against Alzheimer's disease (AD)...," researchers at The Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center in Tampa, Florida, "utilized a transgenic mouse model for AD in well-controlled studies to determine if caffeine and/or coffee have beneficial actions to protect against or reverse AD-like cognitive impairment and AD pathology."
In these studies mice were given caffeine in their drinking water from young adulthood until they were older. These mice demonstrated protection against memory impairment and also lower levels of the scary, sticky protein found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease, known as amyloid-beta, or Abeta. In addition, mice with memory impairment and higher levels of Abeta exhibited memory restoration and lower levels of Abeta after just 1-2 months of caffeine administration. But then get this: "In acute studies involving AD mice, one oral caffeine treatment quickly reduced both brain and plasma Abeta levels - similarly rapid alterations in plasma Abeta levels were seen in humans following acute caffeine administration." Wow!
Because the same results were not found with the use of theophylline, the conclusion drawn was that it is the caffeine itself that provides the therapeutic benefit rather than its metabolites. Further, because treatment with decaffeinated coffee did not produce favorable results, it was concluded that it is the caffeine itself and not other constituents of coffee that was ultimately responsible for the favorable results. The researchers concluded, "Caffeine appears to provide its disease-modifying effects through multiple mechanisms, including a direct reduction of Abeta production through suppression of both beta- and gamma-secretase levels. These results indicate a surprising ability of moderate caffeine intake (the human equivalent of 500 mg caffeine or 5 cups of coffee per day) to protect against or treat AD in a mouse model for the disease and a therapeutic potential for caffeine against AD in humans."
Here is a link to the abstract, but I have actually read the entire paper. Even more intriguing is this paragraph: "The effects of "chronic" caffeine intake on health have been reported in numerous retrospective and prospective studies. A comprehensive review of the literature found that for healthy adults, moderate daily caffeine intake poses no adverse effects on the
cardiovascular system, bone status and calcium balance, or incidence of cancer. Prospective studies have not found significant associations between coffee consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease. Contrary to public belief, caffeine intake of 500-600 mg daily does not increase the risk, frequency, or severity of cardiac arrhythmias. Indeed, there is a growing list of age-related diseases wherein habitual caffeine intake of 400-600 mg (4-6 cups of coffee) daily reduces the risk. For example, strong data from a number of prospective studies show that both caffeine and coffee reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus by 35-79% . Both retrospective and prospective studies report a reduced risk of Parkinson's disease with habitual caffeine/coffee intake. Risk of liver cirrhosis is significantly reduced by both caffeine and coffee. Thus, far from posing a threat to human health during aging, habitual caffeine/coffee intake provides a number of health benefits. "
I don't know about you, but, "Yes, I think I WILL have another cup!"
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20182037" target="_blank">J. Alzheimers Dis. 2010:20 Suppl 1:S117-26.