A coffee with your doughnut could protect against Alzheimer’s disease

A daily dose of caffeine blocks the disruptive effects of high cholesterol that scientists have linked to Alzheimer’s disease. A study in the April 2008 issue of the Journal of Neuroinflammation revealed that caffeine equivalent to just one cup of coffee a day could protect the blood-brain barrier (BBB) from damage that occurred with a high-fat diet. [See free-access article “Caffeine blocks disruption of blood brain barrier in a rabbit model of Alzheimer’s disease.”]

The blood-brain barrier protects the central nervous system from the rest of the body’s circulation, providing the brain with its own regulated microenvironment. Previous studies have shown that high levels of cholesterol break down the blood-brain barrier, which can then no longer protect the central nervous system from the damage caused by blood borne contamination.

Blood-brain barrier leakage occurs in a variety of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

One Cup a Day

In this study, researchers from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences gave rabbits 3 mg caffeine each day – the equivalent of a daily cup of coffee for an average-sized person. The rabbits were fed a cholesterol-enriched diet during this time.

After 12 weeks a number of laboratory tests showed that the blood-brain barrier was significantly more intact in rabbits receiving a daily dose of caffeine.

“Caffeine appears to block several of the disruptive effects of cholesterol that make the blood-brain barrier leaky,” says Jonathan Geiger, University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “High levels of cholesterol are a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, perhaps by compromising the protective nature of the blood-brain barrier. For the first time we have shown that chronic ingestion of caffeine protects the blood-brain barrier from cholesterol-induced leakage.”

Binds Barrier Cells Tightly

Caffeine appears to protect blood-brain barrier breakdown by maintaining the expression levels of tight junction proteins. These proteins bind the cells of the blood-brain barrier tightly to each other to stop unwanted molecules crossing into the central nervous system.

The findings confirm and extend results from other studies showing that caffeine intake protects against memory loss in aging and in Alzheimer’s disease.

“Caffeine is a safe and readily available drug and its ability to stabilize the blood-brain barrier means it could have an important part to play in therapies against neurological disorders,” says Geiger.

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Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is generic and is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any condition, illness, or disease. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it with your professional healthcare team.

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