Caffeine intake and the risk of Alzheimer's disease.




European Journal of Neurology

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In its beginning stages, Alzheimer's can be a difficult disease to spot; the changes in memory and behavior are barely noticeable at first. The disease may worsen within the first several years or take as long as twenty to progress. Average survival time after diagnosis is generally four to eight years. Memory loss gradually worsens, along with a decline in ability to perform routine daily tasks. Late stage Alzheimer's sufferers experience increasing disorientation, impaired judgment, personality changes, difficulty in learning, and a loss of language skills. As yet, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers do not fully know what causes this disease. Some factors related to a higher risk include a family history of AD or dementia and age. According to the Alzheimer's Association, if a cure is not found, 14 million Americans will have AD by the middle of the next century. Current research is focusing on education levels, diet, and environmental factors to assess risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Recently published in the European Journal of Neurology, researchers questioned the potential neuroprotective role of caffeine in Alzheimer's disease. They stated that previous research trials have shown that caffeine in low doses has beneficial properties that can protect in different medical situations. This case-control study involved 54 individuals with a probable risk of AD and a control group of 54 healthy people matched for age and gender. The probable risk of AD was assessed using the NINCD and the AD and Related Disorders Association criteria. Twenty years prior to diagnosis, the average caffeine intake in the AD group was 73.9 mg daily, and in the control group the average intake was 198.7 mg. This illustrated that caffeine intake was drastically inversely associated with Alzheimer's disease. In addition, factors such as hypertension, stroke, family history, and head trauma among many others were not statistically linked to AD. The researchers concluded that these findings could have a major impact on the prevention of Alzheimer's disease, if verified in future studies.1


1. Maia L. Does caffeine intake protect from Alzheimer's disease? Eur J Neurol. Jul 2002;9(4):377-382.