Drinking your morning coffee may do more than just keep you awake – it could prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
A recent study conducted by USF professor Dr. Gary Arendash at the Byrd Alzheimer Institute found that 500
milligrams (roughly five cups of coffee) per day can prevent, as well as treat, development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in mice.
With his groundbreaking findings, Arendash presents tremendous hope for future prevention and treatment with a drug familiar to most college students – caffeine.
“For most people it’s very safe, so you do not have to worry about the whole litany of side effects that accompany (most) drugs,”? said Arendash.
Experiments conducted with naturally occurring caffeine on mice with AD have had successful outcomes. The results led the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute to announce Oct.17 that research has moved to clinical trials using caffeine as treatment for patients with onset AD.
Caffeine can easily penetrate the brain, making it ideal for Alzheimer’s research because it’s difficult to develop a functional or therapeutic drug that can readily cross the blood brain barrier.
In a healthy brain, there are long proteins throughout the brain tissue, said Arendash. In a brain afflicted with AD, two faulty enzymes cut these long? proteins into a partial segment, which forms the beta amyloid protein. The beta amyloid protein accumulates in the brain and forms plaques. As a result, the connections between neurons are broken down and the brain begins to atrophy.
“(Caffeine) seems to affect the Alzheimer’s process directly by? inhibiting both of the enzymes needed to make the abnormal protein that (causes) AD,” said Arendash. “There’s not a therapeutic (drug) being? developed now that can do that.”
In the United States today, more than 5 million people have AD, ?according to alz.org. It is a progressive and potentially fatal neurodegenerative disease. Most symptoms start with short-term memory loss, which leads to severe cognitive decline.
As the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States, many scientists are diligently working all over the world to learn more about and develop a cure for this debilitating disease.
The advantage of caffeine treatments is clear – it is possible to stop degeneration before it starts. Most of the therapies available today ?treat symptoms, but it is much more sensible to attack the pathology ?of the disease when possible, according to Arendash.?
Of his studies conducted with the mice, Arendash said: “We found that those mice given the human equivalent of five cups of coffee per day were protected against Alzheimer’s disease. This suggests that a similar level of caffeine in humans could provide the same sort of beneficial effects to delay or protect against the disease.” ?
In studies conducted with caffeine treatments of mice with onset AD, mice behaved the same as the control mice who were not afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. This led Arendash and his staff of researchers – Alexander Dickson, Maggie Mamcarz, Melissa Runfeldt and graduate student Ralph Leighty – to deduce that caffeine treatments can be used for preventative measures as well as a reversal of the
The benefits of caffeine are not only related to Alzheimer’s, but also to Parkinson’s disease, Type II diabetes, liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and colorectal cancer.
Arendash has worked for USF since 1981 and is known for his work with behavioral medicine.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes (while at USF),” he said. “I’ve seen the growth of the University, and all of this is? very exciting because I’ve been able to watch a metamorphosis of the University to the upper echelon of at least public research universities, and I have always wanted to be a part of that.”