There are no more dreaded misfortunes of increasing age than the onset of the debilitating brain diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia.  What could caffeine have to do with these life-destroying, intractable conditons?
It’s simple:  Caffeine is a tonic for the brain.  Substantial evidence from epidemiological studies and animal research demonstrates that caffeine protects us from the cognitive decline observed in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  Caffeine can greatly reduce our chances of developing either pathology and can even help reverse these conditions after their onset.

Normal Brain vs. Alzheimer's Brain

How does caffeine do these things?  The blood-brain barrier is a wall that the body maintains to keep the Central Nervous System (CNS), including the brain, safe from the intrusion of harmful agencies.  Unfortunately, high cholesterol can damage the blood-brain barrier.  When this damage occurs, the brain becomes vulnerable to suffering the degeneration that leads to Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia.  The amazing fact is that the regular ingestion of the caffeine found in as little as one cup of coffee a day will protect us against the damage to our blood-brain barrier caused by cholesterol.  In this way, caffeine protects us from developing cholesterol-induced leakage of the blood-brain barrier and therefore protects us from developing both Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia.  Caffeine can even reverse the damage already done and actually allow the brain to reverse Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia, effecting a partial or complete recovery from these conditions.

Alexandre de Mendonça, Institute of Molecular Medicine and Faculty of Medicine, University of Lisbon, Portugal, and Rodrigo A. Cunha, Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology of Coimbra and Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, Portugal, convened an assembly of international experts to explore the effects of caffeine on the brain. These scientists’ original studies addressed the molecular targets of caffeine and the mechanisms underlying the neuroprotective actions of caffeine in brain pathologies.  Their findings were explored in a special 2010 supplement to the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, “Therapeutic Opportunities for Caffeine in Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases”.  Mendonça and Cunha, guest editors of the supplement, declared that their new evidence indicates that “caffeine may slow Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and restore cognitive function.”

Interestingly, the mood-elevating powers of caffeine seem to play an important part in recovery from these pathologies as well.  Mendonça and Cunha stated, “One of the most prevalent complications of Alzheimer’s disease is depression of mood, and the recent observations that caffeine might be a mood normalizer are of particular interest….Improvement of daily living may be a more significant indicator of amelioration than slight improvements in objective measures of memory performance.”
Key findings in the published supplement include:
— Multiple beneficial effects of caffeine that normalize brain function and stop and reverse the degeneration of the brain;  
— Caffeine’s neuroprotective powers and caffeine’s ability to reduce amyloid-beta production;  
— Caffeine as a disease-modifying agent for Alzheimer’s disease;  
— The beneficial and remediating effect of caffeine on cognition and memory ;  
— Identification of adenosine A2A receptors as the primary target for the neuroprotection afforded by caffeine consumption. 
By the way, one of caffeine’s remarkable properties is that it passes the blood-brain barrier as if it did not exist.  This means that, when you ingest caffeine, the brain is bathed in it.  The fact that caffeine routinely circulates in the brain may be one of the keys to caffeine’s protective and regenerative powers for the Central Nervous System (CNS).
In any case, caffeine does much more for the brain than fight degenerative diseases.  In fact, its wide range of beneficial effects for maintaining optimal brain fuction and boosting brain function have only recently begun to recognized.  For example, as proven by Israel’s Weissman Institute, caffeine helps normal, healthy brains by growing brain cells in the areas of the brain resposible for long-term memory.  More about this in future posts.

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