TAMPA — Recent studies have shown that heavy doses of caffeine might help prevent or delay the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
But rather than guzzling down super-caffeinated drinks such as Red Bull or taking stay-awake caffeine pills such as NoDoz, researchers at the University of South Florida say coffee might be the way to go.
A new study points not to caffeine, but rather an unidentified component in coffee that interacts with caffeine, as a potential weapon against the memory-robbing disease that afflicts more than 5 million Americans.
Using mice bred to develop Alzheimer's symptoms, the USF researchers found that caffeinated coffee causes an increase in blood levels of a growth factor called GCSF, or granulocyte colony-stimulating factor. GCSF is a substance that is greatly decreased in patients with Alzheimer's, and it also has been demonstrated to improve memory in Alzheimer's mice. In the study, the researchers compared effects of caffeinated coffee, decaffeinated coffee and caffeine alone. Only the caffeinated coffee — and they used drip coffee, not instant — stimulated GCSF.
USF researchers say the findings, which will appear in the June 28 Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, provide the first evidence that caffeinated coffee offers protection against Alzheimer's that is not possible with other caffeine-containing drinks.
"Caffeinated coffee provides a natural increase in blood GCSF levels," said Dr. Chuanhai Cao of the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute, a lead author of the study. But, "the exact ways that this occurs is not understood."
The researchers hope to identify the component so coffee and other caffeinated beverages could be enriched with it to provide protection against the disease.
The USF study involved mice, and mouse research results do not always pan out in humans. But previous observational studies in humans have reported that daily coffee or other caffeine intake during midlife and older age decreases the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Cao said work has begun to identify the component in coffee, but that it could take a year or more.
Richard Martin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3322.