Coffee, America’s beloved beverage, continues to shine with new developments in neuro-scientific research. According to a new study, dark coffee may be a serious preventative to the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.
What the Research Says
The study, which was conducted by the Krembil Brain Institute and published this October by Frontiers in Neuroscience, was conducted as an attempt to discover the actual “mechanism by which coffee may provide neuroprotection in humans.” While several studies have been published recently establishing the benefits of coffee for improving brain function, an earlier test by this same group of researchers found that subjects received those benefits whether or not the coffee was caffeinated. That left the researchers puzzling over why coffee had this affect.
What the research discovered was that phenylindanes, which form during the roasting process, inhibit the binding of two protein fragments that are very common in the brains of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients. When the researchers attempted to inhibit these fragments using caffeine, they were surprised to find that there was no affect. This suggested that caffeine is not the vehicle for coffee’s cognitive health benefits, as was previously hypothesized. Rather, phenylindanes, which are far higher in dark roasts than in lighter roasts, are likely what’s delivering these cognitive benefits.
“It’s the first time anybody’s investigated how phenylindanes interact with the proteins that are responsible for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” says Dr. Mancini, according to Science Daily. “The next step would be to investigate how beneficial these compounds are, and whether they have the ability to enter the bloodstream, or cross the blood-brain barrier.”
This is a crucial breakthrough in understanding the prevention of these serious neuro-cognitive disorders. Though the researchers admit that these benefits are likely the result of a multitude of interrelated causes, if phenylindanes are as crucial to the prevention of neurological “clumping” as the study suggests, then supplements could be developed to benefit high-risk patients.
What it Means for Patients
According to The Alzheimer’s Association, there are currently 5.7 million Americans currently living with the disease, and every 65 seconds, a new name is added to that list. Parkinson’s Disease, while less common, is projected to affect 930,000 Americans by 2020. Breakthroughs in prevention, especially one that’s so easily adoptable, could help reverse that trend and halt the disturbing growth of these cognitive maladies in the near future. While the researchers stress that such a study does not signal a path to a cure, they call the prevention of this protein clumping by phenylindanes “noteworthy.”
What this means for current at-risk patients is that, rather than aiming for highly caffeinated beverages, they should be reaching for the darkest roasts. Whether caffeinated or not, the neurological benefits could be life-altering.