A new Canadian study notes that drinking coffee, especially a dark roast, can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
Researchers have found that natural-fiber compounds known as phenylindanes, produced as a result of the bean roasting process, seem to inhibit the cramping of both beta amyloid and tau, two protein fragments that are common in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
Coffee consumption seems to be linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, Dr. Donald Weaver, co-author of the Krembyl Brain Institute in Toronto. "But we wanted to explore why this is – which compounds are involved and how they can affect age-related cognitive decline."
The team decided to investigate three different types of coffee: a light roast, a dark roast and a decaffeinated dark roast.
"Caffeinated and caffeinated dark baked both had the same strength in our initial experimental tests," said dr. Ross Mancini, a research assistant in medical chemistry. "That's why we warned early that its protective effect can not be due to caffeine."
Mancini then identified a group of compounds known as phenylindanes, which are produced as a result of the process of coffee roasting. Phenylindanes are unique in that they are the only compound investigated in a study that inhibits beta amyloid and tau, two protein fragments, common in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, from the tide.
"So phenylindane double inhibitors. Very interesting, we did not expect that," said Weaver.
Since roasting leads to higher amounts of phenylindanes, dark roasted coffee is more protective than light roasted coffee.
"The first is when someone has explored how phenylinders work together with proteins that are responsible for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease," Mancini said. "The next step would be to explore how useful these compounds are and whether they have the ability to enter the bloodstream or cross the blood-brain barrier."
The fact that it is a natural compound and synthetic is also a great 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 complex compound, it's better if you grow it in crop, harvest, melt the crop and pull it out as you try to achieve it."
Still, much more research is needed before it can be translated into potential therapeutic options, he added.
"What it does is to take epidemiological evidence and try to improve and prove that there are actually components in the coffee that are useful for preventing cognitive decline. Is it interesting to suggest that coffee is a cure? Absolutely not," said Weaver.
Source: University Health Network