Jan 15, 2009

Does Drinking Coffee Really Reduce Alzheimer's Risk?

The study found that coffee drinkers at midlife had lower risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease later in life compared to those drinking no or only little coffee.

The study found that coffee drinkers at midlife had lower risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

The lowest risk (65% decreased) was found among moderate coffee drinkers (drinking 3-5 cups of coffee/day). Adjustments for various confounders did not change the results.

It seems there is big buzz about a new study that indicates drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day might help ward off Alzheimer's disease.

I actually wrote briefly about this back in April. The lead researcher on the this newly released , Miia Kivipelto said:
"Middle-aged people who drank between three and five cups of coffee a day lowered their risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease by between 60 and 65 percent later in life,"




I decided to do some math. The study followed 1409 people in their 50s for twenty years. The participants were "asked about their coffee drinking habits". This group was followed until 1998 when they were between the ages of 65-79 years of age.
The researchers said 61 people developed dementia, 48 of whom developed Alzheimer’s.
Let's go with the number 61. So 61 out of 1409 gives us 4.3 percent. A report issued by the Alzheimer's Association in 2007 showed the following prevalence of Alzheimer's by age:

  • Age 65-74: 2 percent
  • Age 75-84: 19 percent
  • Age 85+: 42 percent

It would be interesting to see the breakdown by age for this new study. It should be obvious that the longer you live, and the older you are, the greater the risk of dementia or Alzheimer's. It would also be interesting to see the comparable rates of prevalence for Alzheimer's in Finland. If the majority of the participants are under 75 then there doesn't appear to be much if any benefit.

Midlife coffee and tea drinking and the risk of late-life dementia

Midlife coffee drinking can decrease the risk of dementia/Alzheimer's disease (AD) later in life. This conclusion is made in a Finnish Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia (CAIDE) Study published in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (Volume 16:1).


This study has been conducted at the University of Kuopio, Finland in collaboration with Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, and the National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland. The study included participants from the survivors of population-based cohorts previously surveyed within the North Karelia Project and the FINMONICA study in 1972, 1977, 1982 or 1987 (midlife visit). After an average follow-up of 21 years, 1409 individuals (71%) aged 65 to 79 completed the re-examination in 1998. A total of 61 cases were identified as demented (48 with AD).

"We aimed to study the association between coffee and tea consumption at midlife and dementia/AD risk in late-life, because the long-term impact of caffeine on the central nervous system was still unknown, and as the pathologic processes leading to Alzheimer's disease may start decades before the clinical manifestation of the disease," says lead researcher, associate professor Miia Kivipelto, from the University of Kuopio, Finland and Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

At the midlife examination, the consumption of coffee and tea was assessed with a previously validated semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire. Coffee drinking was categorized into three groups: 0-2 cups (low), 3-5 cups (moderate) and >5 cups (high) per day.

Further, the question concerning tea consumption was dichotomized into those not drinking tea (0 cup/day) vs. those drinking tea (≥1 cup/day).

The study found that coffee drinkers at midlife had lower risk for dementia and AD later in life compared to those drinking no or only little coffee. The lowest risk (65% decreased) was found among moderate coffee drinkers (drinking 3-5 cups of coffee/day). Adjustments for various confounders did not change the results. Tea drinking was relatively uncommon and was not associated with dementia/AD.

Kivipelto also notes that, "Given the large amount of coffee consumption globally, the results might have important implications for the prevention of or delaying the onset of dementia/AD.

The finding needs to be confirmed by other studies, but it opens the possibility that dietary interventions could modify the risk of dementia/AD. Also, identification of mechanisms of how coffee exerts its protection against dementia/AD might help in the development of new therapies for these diseases."

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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room

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Publication: Marjo H. Eskelinen, Tiia Ngandu, Jaakko Tuomilehto, Hilkka Soininen, Miia Kivipelto (2009). Midlife Coffee and Tea Drinking and the Risk of Late-Life Dementia: A Population-based CAIDE Study. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease 16(1), xx-xx.

Abstract: http://www.j-alz.com/issues/16/vol16-1.html