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Should Alzheimer’s Patients Drink Coffee?

Anyone who enjoys the jolt of a cup of coffee in the morning knows that caffeine can provide a mental and physical boost. And studies have shown that regular, moderate coffee drinking may be tied to a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The protective effect may in part be due to the caffeine in coffee, though coffee also contains antioxidants and other compounds that can be good for blood vessels, including those in the brain.

Now a new study questions whether caffeine is good for those who are already suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. It was conducted in mice that had been bred to develop a disease closely resembling Alzheimer’s in people, and mice are a long way from people. But it found that a daily dose of caffeine increased anxiety and other behavioral symptoms in the mice, suggesting that it may exacerbate behavioral problems in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

While memory loss is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, behavioral and psychological problems can make life difficult for anyone with dementia and those who care for them. Anxiety, aggression, apathy, depression, wandering, and paranoia are among the behavioral problems that crop up in those with Alzheimer’s.

For the study, researchers compared the mice with an Alzheimer’s-like illness to healthy mice. Some of the mice in both groups were fed a steady diet of caffeine. Others got a normal diet.

The researchers found that in the mice bred to develop Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, the caffeine worsened symptoms of anxiety. The mice given caffeine were particularly fearful of anything new, which worsened their anxiety and led to cognitive and behavioral problems.

“Our observations of adverse caffeine effects in an Alzheimer´s disease model together with previous clinical observations suggest that an exacerbation of behavioral symptoms may partly interfere with the beneficial cognitive effects of caffeine,” the authors noted.

Doctors note that anxiety is a well-known side effect of excess caffeine. Many advise their patients with Alzheimer’s disease to avoid coffee if they experience high levels of anxiety. But it is also important to note that many patients can tolerate caffeine, and that a study in mice does not necessarily apply to people.

By www.ALZinfo.org, The Alzheimer’s Information Site. Reviewed by Marc Flajolet, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation at The Rockefeller University.

Source: Raquel Baeta-Corral, Bjorn Johnasson, Lydia Gimenez-Llort: “Long-Term Treatment with Los-Dose Caffine Worsens BPSD-Like Profile in #xTg-AD Mice Model of Alzheimer’s Disease andAffects Mice with Normal Aging.” Frontiers in Psychopharmacology, Feb. 15, 2018.

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