Stop me if you’ve heard this one before (or heard me use that lead-in before to introduce an article about the health benefits of coffee, because honestly there are so many I can’t keep track anymore), but new research shows that coffee may in fact be good for you, your brain in particular. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a new study finds a link between two compounds in coffee that may work together to fight degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia.
This isn’t the first time we’ve reported on coffee’s effects vis-à-vis Parkinson’s. Last month, we looked at a study linking dark roast coffee with a reduced risk of contracting Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s thanks to “phenylindanes, a compound believed to prevent ‘two protein fragments’ commonly associated with the diseases.” For this new article, M. Maral Mouradian, director of the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Institute for Neurological Therapeutics, and Professor of Neurology William Dow Lovett led a team of Rutgers scientists in researching two other compounds: caffeine and Eicosanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamide (EHT).
While caffeine has “traditionally been credited as coffee's special protective agent,” per Science Daily, EHT is a “fatty acid derivative of the neurotransmitter serotonin” found “in the bean's waxy coating” that may also be doing some of the heavy lifting in protecting the brain. The study finds that “EHT protects the brains of mice against abnormal protein accumulation associated with Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia.”
Working in concert, though, the efficacy of EHT and caffeine appears to increase. From the article:
In the current research, Mouradian's team asked whether EHT and caffeine could work together for even greater brain protection. They gave mice small doses of caffeine or EHT separately as well as together. Each compound alone was not effective, but when given together they boosted the activity of a catalyst that helps prevent the accumulation of harmful proteins in the brain. This suggests the combination of EHT and caffeine may be able to slow or stop the progression of these diseases. Current treatments address only the symptoms of Parkinson's disease but do not protect against brain degeneration.
The article goes on to note that additional research needs to be done to determine the exact “amounts and ratios” of EHT and caffeine to have the same effect in humans.
Both Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia are currently incurable diseases. This new research provides further evidence that, while coffee may not act as any sort of cure for these degenerative brain diseases, it help diminish the chances of contracting either to begin with. And you don't even have to drink dark roast.
Top image via Bello Propello/Adobe Stock