A Cup Of Coffee Could Cut Your Dementia Risk

| April 5, 2017

Caffeine is already known to help prevent type 2 diabetes and to contain substances that improve blood sugar control, as I mentioned here and here. And the link between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia, is also well-documented. So, recent findings that caffeine could help ward off dementia are not too surprising.

The research, carried out in Houston, Texas, was quite technical, involving 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 Houston researchers had previously 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. The 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.1

In fact, when they fed caffeine to mice that had been genetically engineered to have low NMNAT2 levels, the animals produced as much of the enzyme as normal mice. While this is still a long way from discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s disease in humans, it suggests that your morning shot of coffee could be doing more good than just giving you an energy boost.

Before you go overboard on caffeine, though, a word of warning for those with diabetes. Other effects of caffeine consumption in people with type 2 diabetes include increasing both blood sugar and blood insulin levels and reducing insulin sensitivity, as I reported earlier here. So, what you gain on the roundabouts you may well lose on the swings.

In my next blog post I return to the thorny question of statin drugs and ask whether they should be prescribed at all for women after the menopause.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

Bear in mind we are not addressing anyone’s personal situation and you should rely on this for informational purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


1. Ali YO, Bradley G, Lu HC. Screening with an NMNAT2-MSD platform identifies small molecules that modulate NMNAT2 levels in cortical neurons. Sci Rep. 2017; 7:43846.

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Category: Diet and Exercise

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