We are pretty used to early mornings at Second Chance Animal Rescue. The animals are not keen on lying in! Once the sun is up they are ready for the day, so our volunteers must be up with the lark (or, you know, the pigs and cows!) to tend to them.
Many folks, ourselves included, rely upon stimulants such as energy drinks or coffee to give us a boost. But aside from this, can drinking coffee benefit our health in other ways?
A study released a few years ago, and discussed in this article, claimed that coffee could actually reduce our risk of developing conditions such as dementia. The study suggested that “moderate coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of developing dementia over a four year follow-up period.”
The reason for this potential health benefit is linked to the idea that caffeine helps “prevent the formation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrulary [sic] tangles in the brain” – two characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease. It was also mentioned that “both caffeine and polyphenols reduce inflammation and decrease the deterioration of brain cells – especially in the hippocampus and cortex, areas of the brain involved in memory.” Others have claimed that it is not the caffeine, but the antioxidants and other biologically active molecules in coffee that are beneficial.
But whilst it would be great to think our love of coffee would also help boost our health, can we be sure the claims from these observational studies are accurate? The study mentioned above was conducted by a laboratory who are funded by “major European coffee companies”, and also because there is a lack of evidence from clinical trials.
Well, information released yesterday from Indiana University (IU) revealed that caffeine has the “potential to boost an enzyme in the brain shown to protect against dementia”. The enzyme in question, known as NMNAT2, was discovered in 2016 and researchers at IU found that it “plays two roles in the brain: a protective function to guard neurons from stress and a “chaperone function” to combat misfolded proteins called tau, which accumulate in the brain as “plaques” due to aging.” These misfolded proteins have been linked to “neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.”
To confirm the effect of caffeine, IU researchers “administered caffeine to [test subjects] modified to produce lower levels of NMNAT2. As a result, they began to produce the normal levels of the enzyme.”
Researcher Hui-Chen Lu stated “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,”.
At Second Chance Animal Rescue we definitely feel great after having our coffee before mucking out the animals, we look forward to having a coffee at the Dementia Cafe too once it’s built and it seems that consuming our favourite beverage may even have amazing health benefits! Pass me a mug of joe!
(SCAR is working closely with the DC to advise on all aspects of animal therapy in dementia care and rehoming a pig for the cafe)