Coffee consumption habits associated with mild cognitive impairment

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Patients who aren't drinking coffee shouldn't start drinking because of the findings of the study. If they do wish to start, its best that they first discuss it with their physicians.

Researchers have established a possible association between change or constant habits in coffee consumption and the incidence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) suggesting that coffee consumption could either increase the risk of MCI or decrease the risk depending upon the consumption habits.

Evaluating 1,445 individuals, a multi-institution research effort found that cognitively normal older individuals who modified their coffee drinking habits by increasing with time their amount of coffee consumption (> 1 cup of coffee/day) had about two times higher rate of MCI compared to those with reduced habits (< 1 cup of coffee/day) and about one and half time higher rate of MCI in comparison with those with constant habits (neither more nor less 1 coffee/day). Further, those individuals who habitually consumed moderate amount of coffee (1 or 2 cups of coffee/day) had a reduced rate of the incidence of MCI than those who habitually never or rarely consumed coffee. No significant association was verified between who habitually consumed higher levels of coffee consumption (> 2 cups of coffee/day) and the incidence of MCI in comparison with those who never or rarely consumed coffee.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is considered a prodromal stage of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and dementia. As no effective treatment exists to modify the natural history of this neurodegenerative disorder, the identification and subsequent management of risk/protective factors may be crucial for prevention of MCI and its progression to AD and dementia.

Among diet-associated factors, coffee is regularly consumed by millions of people around the world and owing to its caffeine content, it is the best known psychoactive stimulant resulting in heightened alertness and arousal and improvement of cognitive performance.

Besides short-term effects of caffeine-containing beverages, some case-control and cross-sectional and longitudinal population-based studies evaluated the long-term effects on brain function and provided evidence that coffee, tea, or caffeine consumption or higher plasma caffeine levels may be protective against cognitive impairment and dementia, with some notable exceptions.

“These findings from the Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging suggested that cognitively normal older individuals who never or rarely consumed coffee and those who increased their coffee consumption habits had a higher risk of developing MCI. Therefore, moderate and regular coffee consumption may have neuroprotective effects also against MCI confirming previous studies on the long-term protective effects of coffee, tea, or caffeine consumption and plasma levels of caffeine against cognitive decline and dementia,” said investigators Vincenzo Solfrizzi, MD, PhD, and Francesco Panza, MD, PhD, University of Bari Aldo Moro, Bari, Italy.

The authors concluded: “More sensitive outcomes such as findings from neuroimaging studies should become available from experimental data, so further explaining the mechanisms underlying the neuroprotective effects of coffee, tea, and caffeine consumption. Larger studies with longer follow-up periods should be encouraged, addressing other potential bias and confounding sources, so hopefully opening new ways for diet-related prevention of dementia and AD.”