Caffeine halts Alzheimer's
Using GM mice, scientists have shown that caffeine can reduce dementia symptoms. To confirm that the mice were good models for Alzheimer's, the scientists first tested the mice for behavioural and memory impairment.
At around around 18 months old – late middle age for mice – they got caffeine in their drinking water. They received the equivalent to a human drinking five cups of coffee a day, and two months later they performed better in the memory tests than mice that got no caffeine. The mice also performed as well as mice of the same age without Alzheimer's. Analysis of the brains of the caffeine-dosed mice showed reduced levels of a protein called beta-amyloid.
It is beta-amyloid that is responsible for forming destructive plaques in the brain, causing symptoms such as dementia. The team concluded that caffeine reduces the level of beta-amyloid by affecting production of related enzymes and suppressing inflammatory changes in the brain.
The reduction in Alzheimer's signs and symptoms, coupled with the fact that caffeine is relatively safe, means these findings are promising. However, clinical trials will be needed to see if caffeine has the same protective effect in humans.