Coffee, Caffeine, Mice and Alzheimer’s

Despite the fact that boomers are reaching retirement age, researchers are not fully investigating the possible links between caffeine and Alzheimer’s. At a time when we would expect this to be a major research focus, the funds for such studies have dried up. Not only are baby boomers being neglected in funding for various reasons, but the second research problem is that mice lie. On the money issue, the government funding for Alzheimer’s research has been shrinking, and when it was funded, the amounts still trailed behind those for cancer and HIV/Aids.

The private sector - mainly the drug companies - don’t fund research into natural remedies or preventatives, since they can’t patent coffee. As far as the mice go, they aren’t good indicators of what works for humans, because very little research has shown that what’s good for Mickey is good for humans. Mice brains thrive on caffeine, but that doesn’t prove human brains will. Richard Martin has written an article laying out the issues for a Florida online news source. Floridians have an obvious interest in Alzheimer’s research because of the state’s attraction as a retirement haven.

Citing a 2009 study which found that caffeine rejuvenated the brains of “demented mice”, and recent studies that showed caffeinated coffee might delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms, Martin stated that now studies need to move on to human subjects. Right now one of the researchers interviewed is working with a chemical engineer to find out what might be the component in coffee that interacts with the caffeine to produce the benefits to the brain. A trial in China is in the planning. Other researchers are more cautious, stating that many caffeinated coffee drinkers still get Alzheimer’s. Apparently there isn’t a simple answer here. There are only so many similarities between mice and human brains.

Even pharmaceutically speaking, of the many drugs tested, only five have been approved, and none of them slow the disease’s progressive memory loss. Exercise, mental exercise, and other activities are also being studied. If caffeine itself doesn’t make a direct contribution, and if other activities are found which improve memory, at least caffeine could play a part by providing the necessary energy to engage in the helpful activity. After all, exercise is an empty hope if a person has no oomph. In conclusion, at present, coffee drinkers might as well continue to drink coffee and enjoy it, and if it helps delay memory loss and other Alzheimer’s symptoms, great. If not, we still enjoy it and receive a long list of already proven benefits to health. Brew on in good health!

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