A recently published study showed an inverse relationship between chronic caffeine consumption and the incidence of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
One recent study comes from Finland where researchers followed about 1,400 coffee drinkers for more than two decades. Researchers found one group seemed to benefit the most: the people who'd been drinking three to five cups of coffee a day in their 40s and 50s.
“They had about a 65-to-70-percent reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in their 70s,” says Huntington Potter, a neurobiologist at the University of South Florida. Potters says effects held up even when researchers controlled for things such as cardiovascular disease, which can influence the risk of dementia.
A few other smaller studies in Europe have led to similar findings, but experts say the research only establishes a correlation between coffee drinking and brain protection.
“I’d hesitate to say that there’s epidemiologic evidence that coffee prevents Alzheimer’s disease,” says Reisa Sperling, an Alzheimer’s researcher at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard University.
It’s possible that these regular coffee drinkers might have other habits in common that could explain the protective effect. “People who are very active in mid-life are more likely to be drinking coffee than couch potatoes,” says Sperling. Maybe the coffee drinkers aren’t benefiting from the coffee as much as they are from keeping their minds and bodies active. The studies make it difficult to suss out.
Apparently one needs about 500mg of caffeine in those three to five cups of coffee. Perhaps the health benefits are because of increased physical activity due to caffeine jitters?