Coffee May Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease

By Traci Pedersen
July 24th, 2022
Medically reviewed by Paul Sietes, MD.
Coffee May Reduce Risk of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's Disease

A new Canadian study finds that drinking coffee, particularly dark roast, may help lower your risk of developing both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers discovered that natural coffee compounds known as phenylindanes, which emerge as a result of the bean roasting process, appear to inhibit the clumping of both beta amyloid and tau, two protein fragments common in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“Coffee consumption does seem to have some correlation to a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Donald Weaver, co-director of the Krembil Brain Institute in Toronto. “But we wanted to investigate why that is   — which compounds are involved and how they may impact age-related cognitive decline.”

The team chose to investigate three different types of coffee: light roast, dark roast, and decaffeinated dark roast.

“The caffeinated and decaffeinated dark roast both had identical potencies in our initial experimental tests,” said Dr. Ross Mancini, a research fellow in medicinal chemistry. “So we observed early on that its protective effect could not be due to caffeine.”

Mancini then identified a group of compounds known as phenylindanes, which emerge as a result of the roasting process for coffee beans. Phenylindanes are unique in that they are the only compound investigated in the study that inhibit both beta amyloid and tau, two protein fragments common in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, from clumping.

“So phenylindanes are a dual-inhibitor. Very interesting, we were not expecting that.” said Weaver.

As roasting leads to higher quantities of phenylindanes, dark roasted coffee appears to be more protective than light roasted coffee.

“It’s the first time anybody’s investigated how phenylindanes interact with the proteins that are responsible for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” said Mancini. “The next step would be to investigate how beneficial these compounds are, and whether they have the ability to enter the bloodstream, or cross the blood-brain barrier.”

The fact that it’s a natural compound vs. synthetic is also a major advantage, said Weaver.

“Mother Nature is a much better chemist than we are, and Mother Nature is able to make these compounds. If you have a complicated compound, it’s nicer to grow it in a crop, harvest the crop, grind the crop out and extract it than try to make it.”

Still, much more research is needed before it can translate into potential therapeutic options, he added.

“What this study does is take the epidemiological evidence and try to refine it and to demonstrate that there are indeed components within coffee that are beneficial to warding off cognitive decline. It’s interesting but are we suggesting that coffee is a cure? Absolutely not,” said Weaver.

Source: University Health Network

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.