Starting your morning with a good cup of coffee can be a great way to get an energy boost. But besides helping you get over your grogginess, it turns out it might also be boosting your brain, too. A study out of the Krembil Brain Institute in Toronto, Canada, has found that drinking your coffee a certain way can actually slash your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
“Coffee consumption does seem to have some correlation to a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s,” Donald Weaver, PhD, co-director of the Krembil Brain Institute and the study’s co-author, said in a statement. “But we wanted to investigate why that is—which compounds are involved and how they may impact age-related cognitive decline.” What they discovered was that one type of coffee in particular is the most beneficial. Read on to see what your daily brew can do for your brain in the long run, according to science.
The 2018 study from the Krembil Brain Institute, which was published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, set out to investigate the theorized connection between coffee consumption and a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The researchers decided to test the compounds found in different beans, including light roast, dark roast, and decaffeinated coffee.
The team discovered that the beans contained phenylindanes, a chemical compound that prevents the buildup and clumping of proteins known as beta-amyloid and tau, which are known to lead to Alzheimer’s. Since a longer roast leads to an increase in the amount of phenylindanes, the researchers concluded that dark roast coffee provided better protection against the neurological condition.
Previous research has posited that caffeinated beverages can have long-term health benefits on the brain. But the Krembali Brain Institute team also discovered that levels of phenylindanes—which give coffee its bitter flavor—were as strong in dark roasted decaffeinated coffee as they were in a regular caffeinated dark roast.
“The caffeinated and de-caffeinated dark roast both had identical potencies in our initial experimental tests,” Ross Mancini, PhD, a research fellow in medicinal chemistry, said in a statement. “So we observed early on that its protective effect could not be due to caffeine.”
The Krembali Brain Institute scientists acknowledged that their findings show more research is needed on the connection between the coffee and cognitive decline. “It’s the first time anybody’s investigated how phenylindanes interact with the proteins that are responsible for Alzheimer’s,” Mancini said. “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.”
In a statement, Weaver quickly dispelled any ideas of dark roast coffee being a miracle elixir when it comes to Alzheimer’s, emphasizing that more research on the subject is necessary. “It’s interesting but are we suggesting that coffee is a cure? Absolutely not,” he said.
When it comes to coffee and your overall health, it’s not only dark roast varieties that have a benefit. In an analysis published in the American Heart Association’s (AHA) journal Circulation in 2015, a team of scientists used data from three large studies totaling 208,501 participants who were followed up with for up to 30 years. This included a food questionnaire that tracked each person’s coffee consumption.
Researchers found a direct correlation between the amount of coffee consumed—including decaffeinated coffee—and mortality. Those who drank three to five cups a day witnessed a 15 percent drop in early death for any reason. The study authors wrote that “significant inverse associations were observed between coffee consumption and deaths attributed to cardiovascular disease, neurologic diseases, and suicide.”