Coffee for cognitive function.

Coffee drinking can be controversial, with some people worrying more about potential hazards than benefits. A 2016 study concluded the health benefits of moderate coffee consumption “clearly outweigh” the potential risks, but now new research proves that drinking certain types of coffee can be beneficial to brain health. So, how might it support cognitive function and even contribute to keeping mental decline at bay?

The Krembil Brain Institute in Canada found coffee consumption correlated to a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease; setting out to find out why and what might be responsible was the challenge. After establishing the protective effect could not be due to caffeine, the researchers finally started focusing on a set of compounds called phenylindanes, which form during the process of roasting coffee beans and lend coffee its bitter flavour. It turned out the phenylindanes, rather than any other coffee-related compounds, seem to inhibit the amalgamation of tau and beta-amyloid, the toxic proteins, of which the excessive build-up in the brain is a key factor in neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

This is the first time anyone has investigated how phenylindanes interact with the proteins that are responsible for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, with it appearing that a longer roasting time causes the coffee beans to produce more phenylindanes; this suggests dark roasted coffee, regular or decaf, has the strongest protective effect on the brain.

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