15 February 2009

Midlife coffee and tea drinking and the risk of late-life dementia

Coffee drinking and Alzheimer’s disease
Dementia News (Alzheimer’s Australia): 6 February 2009
In Finland in 1972, 1977, 1982 or 1987 two population-based studies, the North Karelia Project and the FINMONICA study, began and researchers collected data on people who were then in mid-life. After an average follow up of 21 years, 1409 individuals aged 65 to 79, who had taken part in the earlier studies, were randomly selected and re-examined as part of the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia (CAIDE) study.

Researchers from the University of Kuopio in Finland, the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and Finland’s National Public Health Institute evaluated the participants in a broad range of areas, including demographic and lifestyle factors, cardiovascular health, and whether they had depressive symptoms. In addition, they examined participants genetic profiles to see whether they carried agene variant called apolipoprotein E _4, which is associated with Alzheimer's disease.

One of the findings from the study, which is published in The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, was that people who drink coffee in mid-life have less risk of developing dementia than non-coffee drinkers and tea drinkers, although very few people were tea drinkers and they were only asked whether or not they drank tea, not how much tea they drank. The optimum number of cups of coffee per day was found to be between three and five.

These findings, which were made in 1998, have received considerable media coverage over recent weeks. Though interesting, they need to be looked at in the broader context of the CAIDE study, which reported, in 2006, on the results of a number of other studies conducted on this same group of participants. Those studies found that there were a number of lifestyle factors that increase the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease in later life. These included obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and alcohol consumption, especially in people carrying the apolipoprotein E _4 genevariation.

Those with higher levels of education appeared to have less risk of developing dementia. Higher levels of education were reported to be associated with a lower risk of developing dementia, which may reflect that these people have greater “cognitive reserve”, leading to postponement of the clinical manifestation of dementia.

Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, is a complex set of disorders caused by a number of complex pathologies. The greater body of evidence tells us that the best preventative measures we can take to minimise the risk of developing dementia are to keep our cardiovascular systems healthy, to have active and interesting social lives, and to always be challenging ourselves mentally.

The study, Coffee and Tea Drinking and the Risk of Late-Life Dementia: A Population-Based CAIDE Study, is published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease Volume 16, Number 1, 85-91.

The paper, Lifestyle-related risk factors in dementia and mild cognitive impairment: A population based study, which reports on five other studies conducted under the CAIDE study is availalbe in full text online.

Also view past previous Alzheimer's News story.

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