PhotoMillions of people reach for the coffee pot first thing in the morning -- and continue to do so throughout the day -- to get a jolt of caffeine. While researchers have gone back and forth on whether the beverage is healthy or unhealthy, a new study could have consumers reaching for another cup.

Researchers at the Krembil Brain Institute found that drinking coffee could help to protect consumers from developing both 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. “But we wanted to investigate why that is -- which compounds are involved and how they may impact age-related cognitive decline.”

Beyond caffeine

Dr. Weaver and his team began by testing the effects different blends of coffee -- dark roast, light roast, and decaffeinated dark roast -- have on the brain.

The researchers found the strength of the coffee to be the same across all three blends, so they ruled out caffeine as the component behind the health benefits.

Digging deeper into the chemical makeup of the beverage, the researchers discovered the properties of the compound phenylindane are what could be protecting coffee-drinkers from developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Produced during the roasting process, the compound was found to prevent beta amyloid and tau -- two proteins that are linked to the cognitive diseases -- from spreading.

“It’s the first time anybody’s investigated how phenylindanes interact with the proteins that are responsible for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” said Dr. Ross 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.”

Though the study’s findings were significant in showing that coffee can do more than just wake consumers up in the morning, the researchers did note that more research is required in this area, and coffee is certainly not a cure for Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

The ongoing coffee conflict

For years, researchers have been searching for answers as to whether coffee is beneficial or detrimental to consumers’ health. The debate continues on, as the evidence seems to be ever-changing.

Earlier this year, a consumer group -- the Council for Education and Research on Toxics -- sued the state of California for failing to warn consumers that the chemicals found in coffee should classify the beverage as a carcinogen.

Though a judge initially ruled in favor of the consumer group in March, officials were changing their tunes by June. California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) ruled that the acrylamide found in coffee -- the carcinogenic chemical -- was not enough to pose any harm to consumers. The agency was petitioning for California to reverse the initial ruling.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, researchers found that coffee can improve heart health, help consumers live longer, and reduce the risk of death.  

While keeping up with the risks and benefits associated with drinking coffee can get overwhelming amidst many conflicting reports, ConsumerAffairs has logged findings on the subject here.


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