Could coffee protect you from dementia?

Could your morning cup of coffee protect you from dementia? It’s possible.

According to Indiana University scientists, caffeine is among 24 compounds that have the potential to protect against dementia.

How does it work?

The 24 identified compounds work to increase the brain’s production of the enzyme NMNAT2.

The protective effect of the enzyme was discovered last year. It helps prevent the formation of tangles associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

“This work could help advance efforts to develop drugs that increase levels of this enzyme in the brain, creating a chemical ‘blockade’ against the debilitating effects of neurodegenerative disorders,” said Hui-Chen Lu, who led the study, a professor in the Linda and Jack Gill Center for Biomolecular Science and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, a part of the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences.

The other protective compounds

Other compounds shown by the study to increase the production of NMNAT2 in the brain – although not as strongly as caffeine or rolipram – are ziprasidone, cantharidin, wortmannin and retinoic acid. The effect of retinoic acid could be significant since the compound derives from vitamin A, Lu said.

An additional 13 compounds were identified as having potential to lower the production of NMNAT2. Lu said these compounds are also important because understanding their role in the body could lead to new insights into how they may contribute to dementia.

“Increasing our knowledge about the pathways in the brain that appear to naturally cause the decline of this necessary protein is equally as important as identifying compounds that could play a role in future treatment of these debilitating mental disorders,” she said.

Source: Indiana University via