Your morning cup of coffee may protect you from a variety of diseases, from Alzheimer’s to diabetes to Parkinson’s. Several studies have suggested that regular consumption of caffeine reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
But there is a catch, it seems. A cup or two are not enough to produce the optimum benefits, according to Dr. Gary Arendash, a leading Alzheimer’s researcher who has been studying the effects of caffeine on the brain. He says 500 milligrams of caffeine – equal to five cups of coffee – seems to be the amount necessary to produce a protective effect. According to Arendash, “I drink five to six cups a day religiously.”
His study used mice that were bred to develop Alzheimer’s. After two months (about 6 human years) of drinking caffeinated water, the mice performed much better on memory and thinking tests compared to the mice given only water. In addition, the caffeinated mice had a 50 percent reduction in beta amyloid, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
Another large, long-term study, conducted in Finland, found men and women who drank 3-5 cups of coffee per day were 65 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease twenty years later. Other studies indicate people who are regular coffee drinkers are up to 80 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.
Why coffee? In addition to it’s stimulating effects, coffee is also high in antioxidants. Many of us get more daily antioxidants from coffee than from fruits and vegetables! Studies have also shown that coffee cuts the risk of diabetes, as it improves insulin sensitivity.
COFFEE DRINKING TIPS
- Drink it black. You’ll get more health benefits from coffee if you skip the additives. Okay, I know some of you can’t imagine anything other than a Grande caramel macchiato, but just try it plain!
- Drink it early. Most folks find drinking coffee later in the day can keep them up at night. Find your “cut off point” and skip the coffee after that time to avoid insomnia.
- Drink it fresh. To maximize the flavor and prevent oxidation and loss of nutrients, coffee is best when fresh-ground.
- Drink it in moderation. Sure, the experts say you’ll get the most benefits from 5 or so cups a day, but listen to your body. You may need to keep your coffee consumption at a lower level to feel your best. Coffee may cause digestive problems, jitters or insomnia in certain people, so cut back if you have any side effects. Doctors also recommend that if you’re pregnant or being treated for some medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, it’s best to avoid or restrict caffeine.
Don’t forget that tea also contains caffeine (A cup of black tea has about half as much caffeine as a cup of coffee and a cup of green tea has about a quarter as much) and other beneficial compounds, and is less likely to produce side effects.