| Your Daily Coffee May Protect
Coffee may cut the risk of dementia by blocking
the damage cholesterol can inflict on the body, research suggests.
The drink has already been linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer's
Disease, and a study by a US team for the Journal of Neuroinflammation
may explain why.
A vital barrier between the brain and the main blood supply
of rabbits fed a fat-rich diet was protected in those given a
UK experts said it was the "best evidence yet" of coffee's benefits.
The "blood brain barrier" is a filter which protects the central
nervous system from potentially harmful chemicals carried around
in the rest of the bloodstream.
Other studies have shown that high levels of cholesterol in
the blood can make this barrier "leaky".
Alzheimer's researchers suggest this makes the brain vulnerable
to damage which can trigger or contribute to the condition.
The University of North Dakota study used the equivalent to
just one daily cup of coffee in their experiments on rabbits.
After 12 weeks of a high-cholesterol diet, the blood brain barrier
in those given caffeine was far more intact than in those given
"Caffeine appears to block several of the disruptive effects
of cholesterol that make the blood-brain barrier leaky," said
Dr Jonathan Geiger, who led the study.
"High levels of cholesterol are a risk factor for Alzheimer's
disease, perhaps by compromising the protective nature of the
blood brain barrier.
"Caffeine is a safe and readily available drug and its ability
to stabilise the blood brain barrier means it could have an important
part to play in therapies against neurological disorders."
A spokesman for the Alzheimer's Disease Society said that the
study shed "important light" on why previous research had showed
benefits for drinking coffee.
"This is the best evidence yet that caffeine equivalent to one
cup of coffee a day can help protect the brain against cholesterol.
"In addition to its effect on the vascular system, elevated
cholesterol levels also cause problems with the blood brain barrier.
"This barrier, which protects the brain from toxins and infections,
is less efficient prior to brain damage caused by Alzheimer's
disease or strokes."
She called for more research into whether the same effect could
be seen in humans.