Friday, January 8, 2010

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee: Caffeine and Alzheimer's

Caffeine nearly represents one of the basic food groups for most Americans. Ninety percent of us drink coffee, or some form of caffeine, every day…and about 300 mg of it, too. Some scientists say anything over 250 mg in one sitting will make you jittery and restless. Drinking over 2500 mg can literally kill you!

Because this drug is such a recognized and accepted part of our lives, it also spends a lot of time in the scientist’s lab. Conflicting studies abound. A series of studies may find that the effects of caffeine on the nervous system make it a less healthy choice overall. Others suggest that caffeine might actually help reduce scarring of liver tissue with Hepatitis C.

One of the most recent research studies at the University of South Florida involved caffeine, mice and memory. The upshot was that the caffeine interfered with production of a disease-causing protein that builds up on the brain, impeding memory in humans. It was difficult to check the “memory” part for the mice, of course, but the results were impressive enough to continue testing the hypothesis. Studies have not begun on humans yet. In the meantime, though, caffeine is everywhere, relatively cheap and mostly risk-free in moderate amounts to do your own testing.

As gingko biloba falls off the list of over the counter remedies for memory loss, turning to one of America’s favorite drugs just got another boost.

So, if Aunt Sally or Grandpa have cut down on coffee and you are noticing more forgetfulness, buy them an automatic coffee machine and set the timer. Starting the day with some “joe” might make all the difference.

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