coffee helps protect your brain

How coffee helps protect your brain

Food, Neurology

Coffee can be considered a health food.  More and more research studies show positive health benefits from caffeinated or de-caffeinated coffee. One of the benefits is for the brain. Coffee drinkers appear to be protected somewhat from the effects of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers from the Krembil Brain Institute in Toronto, Canada studied how and why coffee helps keep the brain healthy. They just published their findings in Frontiers in Neuroscience. Before we summarize their study, let’s review the other health benefits of coffee.

Health benefits of coffee

Coffee drinkers have a 40 to 50% lowered risk of liver cancer. Heavy alcohol drinkers who also drink coffee show about a 20% lowered risk of cirrhosis. Several Harvard studies demonstrated an 11% lowered risk of type 2 diabetes and heart failure in people who drink more than one cup per day.

Coffee drinkers appear to have additional protection against colon cancer. Finally, besides giving more alertness and energy, coffee may act as a mild anti-depressant.

The Canadian study

The researchers from the Krembil Brain Institute performed an extensive chemical analysis of three different types of coffee to try to find the components that were brain protective. They studied dark roast, light roast, and decaffeinated dark roast. One of their conclusions was that the brain benefits of coffee are the same if you drink caffeinated or de-caffeinated coffee.

Coffee roasting is the key

Coffee is full of antioxidants, and the Canadian researchers found that the chemicals that protect the brain are called phenylindanes. Raw unroasted coffee is green, with a
“grassy” smell, and is relatively tasteless. Only when the beans are roasted do they develop their characteristic flavors.

As the beans are roasted, pheylindanes are formed, which give coffee somewhat of a bitter taste. The researchers found that the longer the beans are roasted (as in dark roast), the more of these beneficial pheylindanes are formed. They concluded that darker roast coffees are probably more beneficial for brain protection than light roasted.

Pheylindanes in the brain

These chemicals protect the brain by decreasing the formation and “clumping” of two toxic proteins—tau and beta-amyloid— that form in brains of people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

How much brain protection?

Various studies have shown that regular, moderate coffee drinkers have up to a 65% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. People who drink 3 or more cups per day were shown to have a 29% lower risk of Parkinson’s disease. Some earlier research suggested that caffeinated coffee is more protective against Parkinson’s than de-caffeinated.

How much coffee to drink

Up to four cups a day is considered a safe and healthy amount for most people. If it makes you jittery or keeps you from sleeping, try decaffeinated coffee (or caffeinated in the morning and de-caffeinated later in the day). If you have a choice, you might choose a darker roast if you want to maximize the brain benefits. Caffeine may give some additional benefits over de-caffeinated, and surprisingly, instant coffee seems to protect as well as fresh brewed!

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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