Here's another item to add to the growing list of caffeine's health benefits: That daily java habit may help you avoid Alzheimer's disease as you get older. Not only that, a recent study of caffeine consumption reveals that drinking the brew actually may reverse any age-related memory loss you already experience.

Researchers at the University of South Florida's Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center conducted a study on 55 mice that were genetically tweaked to develop memory problems much like Alzheimer's as they got older. At about a year and a half old (or 70 in human years), half of the mice began to be served caffeine in their drinking water equivalent to five cups of coffee a day. The other half were served plain water.

After two months, the researchers found that the caffeinated mice were able to perform significantly better on memory and thinking-skills tests than the mice that drank nothing but water. The caffeinated mice actually possessed the mental abilities of regular mice of the same age that had never been genetically altered to have memory problems. As further evidence of their new superior brain power, the mice given caffeine had 50 percent less beta amyloid in their brains than they had before. Beta amyloid is a protein that forms the sticky plaques that signify Alzheimer's disease.

Encouraged by their results, the researchers set out to learn whether caffeine would boost brain power in normal mice that did not have any memory problems but found it would not. They concluded that caffeine's benefits with regard to memory were limited to fixing problems that had already developed, not supercharging the brains of those who were healthy to begin with.

While human trials of caffeine's effects on memory have yet to be conducted, the researchers at Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center have done experiments involving giving caffeine to older subjects who don't have Alzheimer's and learned that in those people, blood levels of beta amyloid quickly go down. This suggests that faltering human brains may benefit from caffeine just as much as mouse brains do. So next time you experience a fuzzy moment or two, brew a pot of coffee and savor it. You just may find those fuzzy moments occurring less and less frequently with each cup.


Source: Journal of Alzheimer's Disease,