A new Canadian study found that drinking coffee, especially dark rust, could help reduce the risk of developing both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
The researchers found that natural coffee compounds called phenylindans, which arise as a result of the bean pollination process, seem to inhibit the clumping of both beta-amyloid and tau, two protein fragments common to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
"Consumption of coffee seems to have a certain correlation to a reduced 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 it is – which associations are involved and how they can affect age-related cognitive decline."
The team chose to examine three different types of coffee: light-fried, dark rust and caffeine-free dark rust.
"The caffeinated and caffeine-free dark grill had both identical potencies in our first experimental tests," said Dr. Ross Mancini, a researcher in medical chemistry. "So we observed early that its protective effect could not be due to caffeine."
Mancini then identified a group of compounds called phenylindans, which arise as a result of the roasting process for coffee beans. Phenylindans are unique because they are the only compound studied in the study that inhibits both beta-amyloid and tau, two protein fragments common to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, from clumping.
"So phenylindans are a double inhibitor. Very interesting, we did not expect it." Sa Weaver.
Because roasting leads to higher amounts of phenylindans, dark roasted coffee appears to be more protective than light-burned coffee.
"This is the first time someone examines how phenylindans interact with the proteins responsible for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's," says Mancini. "The next step would be to investigate how beneficial these compounds are and if they are able to enter the bloodstream or cross the blood-brain barrier."
Being a natural compound as compared to synthetic is also a big advantage, says Weaver.
"Mother Nature is a much better chemist than we are, and Mother Nature can make these compounds. If you have a complicated union, it's nicer to grow in a crop, harvest the crop, cut the crop and extract it than try to do it. "
Still, much more research is required before it can be translated into potential therapeutic alternatives, he added.
"What this study does is to take the epidemiological evidence and try to refine it and show that there are indeed components in coffee that are beneficial to ward off cognitive decline. It's interesting, but we suggest that coffee is a cure? Absolutely not, says Weaver.
Source: University Health Network