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Coffee Said to Lower Risk of Alzheimer's

Coffee in Cup

Every new year produces its own series of absurd and inane statements and conclusions on how one can avoid Alzheimer’s and other dementia producing diseases. This year’s (2009) first prize winner will probably be the report from the New York Times dated 27 January 2009. Apparently coffee is now a wonder drug in preventing Alzheimer’s. This conclusion will be well received among the millions of coffee lovers.

We are now asked to believe the findings of a group of Swedish and Danish scientists who studied a group of 1,409 men and women of which 61 were said to be diagnosed with dementia. They concluded that the coffee drinkers in the group who drank 3 or more cups of coffee a day had 65% less likelihood of dementia than those who drank less than three cups a day. The 20 year study was said to have been done with a group of middle aged subjects.

      Editorial Note and Update: See my update (2011) below that suggests the volume of coffee needed is actually 5 cups or more and the risk reduction is 20% and not 65%.

The use of the term dementia in this study adds further confusion to the use of this term by both the medical profession and the general public. Dementia is not a disease but rather it is a group of symptoms that are caused by some overlying disease such as Alzheimer’s. Diseases such as Lewy Body disease and Huntington’s disease are examples of other diseases that cause dementia symptoms. Alzheimer’s produces about 70-80% of all cases of dementia symptoms. Since it is the disease that causes the dementia symptoms and not the other way around, which disease is coffee supposed to help to prevent. Middle age described in this study normally has a very low prevalence of Alzheimer’s in any event. Because of the age factor, the study appears to be seriously flawed when attempting to apply their so called findings to Alzheimer’s. Most would not have been in the critical age for this disease. Age remains the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer's. At age 65 about one person in eight will come down with it while at age 85 about one in two will become a casualty of the disease.

This is just another conclusion and statement spawned by the large group of researchers who love to advise one how to avoid Alzheimer’s by life style and or nutrition changes. Such foolishness is counter productive. Our scientists and others should spend their time and energy finding a cure for this terrible disease rather than give false hope that one can avoid it simply by leading a different life style or one with different nutrition habits. While some of these studies suggest a lowered risk of Alzheimer’s by some percentage, there is nothing to eliminate such a risk. The largest risk factor will always be age. All other risk factors pale by comparison!

      Editorial Note and Update: Reference is hereby made to the NIH Jury of 15 Medical Specialists convened in 2010 and who reviewed all the various trials, studies and research into suggested means of preventing Alzheimer’s or slowing down the rate of progression of Alzheimer’s by diet, life style Their findings: “NO evidence of even moderate scientific quality exists to support the association of any modifiable factor (such as (1.) nutritional supplements, (2.) herbal preparations, (3.) dietary factors, (4.) prescription or non prescription drugs, (5.) social or economic factors, (6.) medical conditions, (7.) toxins, or environmental exposures) with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.


   Update: March 2011: The Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference on Alzheimer’s met in Honolulu in 2010. Their report has commented on Coffee and Alzheimer’s.

According to the scientists, coffee consumption did not show any effect except at the very highest level of consumption*– where it was associated with significantly decreased decline of 20 percent.

"The suggestion of a positive effect of tea consumption in slowing cognitive decline requires further investigation," Arab said. "Interestingly, the observed associations are unlikely to be related to caffeine, which is present in coffee at levels 2-3 times higher than in tea."

* See the below report from Florida Alzheimer’s disease Research Center on levels of coffee consumption required in order to be effective. For a report on tea and the affects on Alzheimer’s, see the separate essay on tea and Alzheimer’s.

Five (5) Cups of Coffee a day may be required in order to impact Alzheimer's Disease!

Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (29 June 2010) researcher (and coffee lover) Gary Arendash and colleagues discovered that 500 mg of caffeine can affect Alzheimer’s:

They have found that adding caffeinated water to a rodent's diet results in large improvements. The mice perform better on short-term memory and thinking tests. But only if they get sufficient caffeine. 

"The human equivalent of two to three cups of coffee does not have benefits in our Alzheimer’s mice," says Arendash. 

Arendash’s team also documented that these super-caffeinated mice end up with about a 50-percent reduction in abnormal amyloid proteins, which are thought to play an important role in the development of Alzheimer’s. 

It is said that the typical American drinks about a cup and a half of coffee a day. "So you can see that many of us are below that threshold level that we believe confers protective benefits," says Arendash.


A Case in Point: My wife June is a good case study in point on coffee. She did everything right as to the current wisdom and recommendations for avoiding Alzheimer’s.

June was a typical Scandinavian (full blooded Norwegian) who loved her coffee. The coffee pot was always on. People of Norwegian descent frequently joke about coffee being “Norwegian gasoline.” I drink coffee but more or less as a social device. In other words I drink it when it is served but normally would not order it in a restaurant. I do not like it straight and will drink it only if cream is available to soften the taste. June used to jokingly tell me that I really did not like coffee if I had to dilute it with cream. (She was right....)

(Photo below right was taken of June in May 1994 before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's)   June 1994 


On Monday January 26th, 1998 (Black Monday) June was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. For almost eleven (11) weary years, June struggled with this disease as she traveled ever more deeply into the dark shadows of Alzheimer’s. Finally on October 23rd, 2007, June gave up her exhausting battle and departed this earth for her heavenly home.


In the end, the result was that June left me, the NON coffee lover/drinker to travel the road alone. Her coffee pot sets in the kitchen unused. There is no indication in June's history to indicate June's life long love of coffee was of any benefit to her in the battle with Alzheimer's.


The real risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age. At age 65 and older approximately one person in eight will have Alzheimer’s. When the age factor is 85 or older, approximately 50% will have Alzheimer’s.

When the scientific community discovers the so called “Fountain of Youth”, they will have almost solved the puzzle of preventing Alzheimer’s. So for the time being, the efforts should be organized around finding a cure and not waste our time on wishful thinking.

June's funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website under the "In Memoriam" label -  or just Click on this link:

"June K. (Rolstad) Berg - In Memoriam".

For the story of June’s favorite home at 6025 Gardena Lane and the poem I wrote about this home during a day of deep sadness, click on the below link: (This was June’s home for almost 40 years. It was constructed shortly after the previous home was severely damaged in a tornado. 6025 Gardena Lane was the first home the June participated in the selection and purchase of a lot on a small hill, helped with the design of the home and watched it being constructed. 6025 Gardena Lane had a special place in her heart.)

 “6025 Gardena Lane – June’s Favorite Home”