Could coffee be a secret weapon in fight against dementia?

If you’ve read some of my previous posts, then you’ll know that there is nothing I like more than to find a quiet spot in a quaint coffee shop, sipping on a warm cup of freshly ground coffee (my preference is Flat White) and watch the world go by.

Not only am I a fan of my quiet cup of coffee, but I also believe in the health benefits of this popular beverage. Caffeine is already known to help prevent type 2 diabetes and improve blood sugar control. And the link between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia, is also well-documented.

And because of coffee’s numerous health benefits, a recent study on the benefits of caffeine in warding off dementia grabbed my attention. Now the research was quite technical and it involved an enzyme with an unpronounceable name – nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyl transferase 2, or NMNAT2.

This enzyme is important for brain cells, called neurons, which consist of a compact cell body and one or more long ‘arms’, or axons, which carry nerve impulses.

The cell body must keep its axons supplied with materials they need to stay healthy, and one of these is NMNAT2. In fact, NMNAT2 must be supplied to the axons continuously, since it is very short-lived, and a deficiency leaves the axon vulnerable to damage.

The same researchers had already shown that NMNAT2 plays at least two roles in brain cells: protecting axons from stress and combating misfolded proteins called tau, which accumulate as “plaques” in Alzheimer’s disease.

Their new study screened more than 1,280 pharmacologically active compounds to see how they affected NMNAT2 production – and found that caffeine gives it a real boost.

Now, I know this all sounds very complex but the results are very positive even though this is still a long way from discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

I’m sure that preventing dementia is one of the last things that cross your mind when you have your early morning coffee, but at least now you can rest assured that your morning shot of coffee could be doing more good than just giving you an energy boost.