A study in the US has found that drinking up to 5 cups of coffee a day may reverse the memory problems suffered by Alzheimer patients. But British experts said that the new findings do not mean that Alzheimer sufferers should start taking caffeine supplements.
Protein plaques, which are a hallmark of the disease, were also seen to be hampered in their production by the effects of caffeine. Previous studies have also shown a ‘protective’ effect of the brain by caffeine.
The amount of coffee used in the experiments was the equivalent of 2 cups of speciality coffee, such as a cappuccino or a latte from a coffee shop. This is the same amount of caffeine that it is in 14 cups of tea or 20 soft drinks.
Mice were used in the experiments to test the effects of caffeine. The results showed that there was nearly a 50% reduction in the production of beta amyloid protein as a result of the caffeine intake. It is this protein that forms destructive clumps in the brains of dementia patients.
Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia which can affect younger people but mainly effects people over the age of 50. The well-know author Sir Terry Pratchett is a sufferer of Alzheimer’s and has done a lot to raise awareness of the disease. The symptoms of dementia include loss of memory, confusion and problems with speech and understanding. Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse. How fast dementia progresses will depend on the individual. Each person is unique and will experience dementia in their own way.
There are a number of diseases and conditions that cause dementia:
Alzheimer's disease – This is the most common cause of dementia. The disease leads to the death of brain cells as the chemistry and structure of the brain changes.
Fronto-temporal dementia − Personality and behaviour are more affected than memory. In fronto-temporal dementia the damage caused is usually focused in the front part of the brain.
Vascular disease − The brain relies on a network of vessels to bring it oxygen-bearing blood. If the oxygen supply to the brain fails, brain cells are likely to die and this can cause the symptoms of vascular dementia. These symptoms can occur either suddenly, following a stroke, or over time through a series of small strokes.
Dementia with Lewy bodies – The presence of Lewy bodies (tiny spherical structures inside nerve cells) in the brain leads to the degeneration of brain tissue. Memory, concentration and language skills are affected. This form of dementia shares some characteristics with Parkinson's disease