Coffee 'could reverse Alzheimer's effects'

US researchers suggest that an increased caffeine intake cannot only prevent Alzheimer's disease, but also reverse its effects, in mice at least.

Scientists in Europe have been investigating the benefits of caffeine in preventing Alzheimer's disease for some years, but the latest study from Florida's Alzheimer's Research Centre has taken it further.

Lead researcher Dr Gary Arendash says caffeine was put in the water of mice that were genetically programmed to develop Alzheimer's disease.

"After we'd been giving the mice caffeine for two months, we found that their memory had actually returned, that there was a reversal of the memory impairment they had, and quite remarkably the Alzheimer's pathology in their brain was reduced by about 50 per cent," he said.

He says although mice and human brains are similar in key ways, the results cannot be assumed to be directly applicable to humans.

"The next step would be to administer caffeine over the course of a number of months to Alzheimer's patients to determine whether or not the caffeine would have some beneficial effect at least to stabilise the cognitive function and hopefully, to improve upon it," he said.

The mice were given 1.5 milligrams of caffeine per day, but Dr Arendash is recommending 500 milligrams for humans.

Depending on how you brew your coffee, this could be up to five cups a day, but some Sydney cafe-goers were not so keen on that.

"My mind starts racing too much and I can't function properly. It makes you a little bit edgy I guess," one patron said.

But another says he is happy to hear the news.

"But it wouldn't encourage me to drink five; I think that's a bit too many," he said.

Another says she will not change her coffee drinking habits because she drinks coffee for pleasure, not for medicinal purposes.

"I do know that [Alzhemier's is] in my family history, but I also believe that what will be, will be," she said.

"I think if you started doing all the things that you should do to stop cancer or to stop Alzheimer's, I think you'd just be a nervous wreck."

But Dr Arendash says coffee is not as bad for us as we are made to believe.

"There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding these purported negative effects of caffeine," he said.

"For individuals who take in caffeine on a regular basis, what we would call habitual caffeine or coffee users, there really isn't any substantial evidence showing increase in blood pressure or increase in arrhythmias occurring," he said.

"If I was in a family that had the familial form of Alzheimer's, where half of individuals have it by age 60, I would definitely be taking in 500mgs of caffeine a day and I would be doing it in coffee."

And if anyone's wondering; the research has got no sponsorship from coffee companies.