Caffeine and neurodegenerative conditions

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Caffeine and age-related cognitive decline

Several epidemiological studies suggest that a regular, lifelong, moderate consumption of coffee/caffeine may slow down physiological, age-related cognitive decline, especially in women and those over 80 years old in particular24. However, more studies are still needed to increase the statistical power for the detection of an association between caffeine and cognitive impairment.

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Caffeine and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease

Caffeine, whose primary target is the brain, has been reported not only to have positive cognitive effects but also to decrease the risk for age-related cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Animal studies have shown that caffeine may be able to counteract a variety of Alzheimer’s disease related pathologies25,26. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis found a trend towards a protective effect of lifelong caffeine consumption and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. However, at present the epidemiological data available used heterogeneous methodologies across a limited number of subjects. Additional prospective studies on larger cohorts are still needed24.

There is a wealth of epidemiological studies reporting an inverse association between coffee consumption and risk of Parkinson’s disease. The relationship is dose-dependent, and therefore suggests a possible causal effect27. According to animal studies, it is likely that caffeine in coffee is the main component responsible for the potential preventative effect of coffee in Parkinson’s disease involving mainly its antagonism at A2A adenosine receptors28.

When caffeine is absorbed in coffee, the direct effects of caffeine on neuroprotection seem to be reinforced by the effects of some other coffee constituents that together seem to act on the brain vascular system, the blood-brain barrier and inflammation.

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