A new Canadian study found that drinking coffee, especially dark roasts, can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
Scientists have found that natural coffee compounds known as phenylindans that appear as a result of the bean roasting process apparently inhibit the accumulation of both beta amyloid and tau, two protein fragments common in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
"Coffee consumption seems to have some correlation with the reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease," Dr. Donald Weaver, co-director of the Krembil Brain Institute in Toronto. "But we wanted to explore why it is – what compounds are involved and how they can affect age-related cognitive decline."
The team decided to explore three different kinds of coffee: light baked, dark roasted and dark-baked bread.
"The caffeinated and non-caffeine dark roast had the same strength in initial experimental tests," said Dr. Ross Mancini, a medical chemist. "So we soon noticed that his protective effect could not have been due to caffeine."
Mancini then identified a group of compounds known as phenylindans that arose as a result of the roasting process for coffee beans. Phenylindanas are unique in that they are the only compound studied in a study that inhibits both clustering of both beta amyloid and tau, two protein fragments common in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
"Therefore, phenylindans are a dual inhibitor, and we did not expect it very interesting," Weaver said.
Since roasting leads to higher levels of phenylindans, dark roasted coffee seems to be protective than lightly roasted coffee.
"It's the first time anyone investigates how phenylindans work with proteins that are responsible for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease," Mancini said. "The next step would be to find out how useful these compounds are and whether they have the ability to enter the bloodstream or cross the blood-brain barrier."
The fact that it's a natural mixture vs. Synthetic is also a great asset, Weaver said.
"Mother Nature is a better pharmacy than we do, and Mother Nature is capable of producing these compounds. If you have a complicated mixture, it's better to grow in the crop, harvest the crop, grind the crop and extract it before trying to do it.
Yet, much more research is needed before it can be translated into possible therapeutic options, he added.
"What this study is doing is to remove epidemiological evidence and try to clarify it and show that coffee is actually an ingredient that is beneficial for averting cognitive decline." It is interesting, but we suggest that coffee be a cure? Weaver.
Source: University Health Network