Alzheimer's: Dr Chris discusses the early signs of condition
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A recently published study in Australia aimed to quantify the impact of a popular beverage on the development of cognitive impairment in aging people. Following 200 people over a decade, the participants who drank greater amounts of coffee saw a significantly reduced risk. Coffee intake was linked to a lower build-up of amyloid protein in the brain, a key marker in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers believe this could provide a simple lifestyle change to help people who are at risk.
“It’s a simple thing that people can change,” said lead author doctor Samantha Gardener.
“It could be particularly useful for people who are at risk of cognitive decline but haven’t developed any symptoms.
“We might be able to develop some clear guidelines people can follow in middle age and hopefully it could then have a lasting effect.”
The UK currently drinks 95 million cups of coffee per day, according to the British coffee association.
Larger amounts of coffee produced increased benefits, although the study did not establish a maximum amount to achieve the health benefits.
Two cups seem to be a good amount according to the data so far.
Doctor Gardener explained: “If the average cup of coffee made at home is 240g, increasing to two cups a day could potentially lower cognitive decline by eight percent after 18 months.
“It could also see a five percent decrease in amyloid accumulation in the brain over the same time period.”
Drinking more coffee saw improvements to several specific areas of cognitive function.
The most notable was executive function, which affects your ability to construct and carry out plans, exercise self-control and concentrate on tasks.
Problems with executive function are characterised by difficulty managing tasks, keeping track of belongings and organising thoughts.
In Alzheimer’s disease, the first symptom is typically problems with memory, although in rare cases it may impact vision or language first.
The study was not able to collect exhaustive data on how and what types of coffee people were drinking.
Caffeinated and decaf coffee were both taken by participants and a variety of brewing methods were used.
Future research might unveil the optimal beverage, whether caffeinated or decaf, milk or sugar and the type of filter used.
Caffeine has been linked in other studies to reducing cognitive impairment but it may not be the only active ingredient in coffee to produce this effect.
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are one of the leading causes of disability in later life, beating out cancer, heart disease and strokes.
The burden of care is expected to rise for dementia sharply over the next two decades, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.
Despite this, they explain dementia research is broadly underfunded compared to conditions such as cancer.
They say: “For every person living with dementia, the annual cost to the UK economy is over £30,000 and yet only £90 is spent on dementia research each year.”
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