Yesterday, I reviewed the effects of oxidative stress on memory and cognitive performance, along with 10 antioxidants to support brain health.
Compelling new research has linked caffeine consumption to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, a 2012 University of Illinois animal study may be able to explain how this happens.(J Neurosci. 2012;32(40):13945-55.) Scientists have discovered a novel signal that activates the brain-based inflammation associated with neurodegenerative diseases and caffeine appears to block its activity.
Scientists examined the effects of caffeine on memory formation in two groups of mice. One group was given caffeine, the other received none. The two groups then were exposed to hypoxia, simulating what happens in the brain during an interruption of breathing or blood flow, and then allowed to recover.
The caffeine-treated mice recovered their ability to form a new memory 33 percent faster than the non-caffeine-treated mice. In fact, caffeine had the same anti-inflammatory effect as blocking IL-1 signaling. IL-1 is a critical player in the inflammation associated with many neurodegenerative diseases.
The University of Illinois scientific team’s objective was to shed light on how learning memory is impaired. According to the scientists, the hypoxic episode triggered the release of adenosine by brain cells. Cells are little powerhouses and they run on a fuel called ATP, which is made up of molecules of adenosine. When there’s damage to a cell, adenosine is released.
One scientist used the following analogy: Just as gasoline that leaks out of a tank poses a danger to everything around it, adenosine leaking out of a cell poses a danger to its environment. That said, the extracellular adenosine activated the enzyme caspase-1, which triggered production of the cytokine IL-1β, a critical player in inflammation.
What is the impact of caffeine? Interestingly, caffeine blocked all the activity of adenosine and inhibited caspase-1 and the associated inflammation, limiting damage to the brain and protecting it from further injury. Caffeine’s ability to block adenosine receptors has been linked to cognitive improvement in certain neurodegenerative diseases and as a protectant against Alzheimer’s disease.
An abundance of recent scientific evidence indicates that any nutritional regimen to protect the brain from dementia and other ravages of aging should incorporate food and supplements that have been shown to stimulate brain energy metabolism, boost acetylcholine levels, and protect against inflammation, thrombosis, and oxidative stress. By taking advantage of recent advances in nerve cell function, cognition and memory, and how these processes are disrupted during normal aging, health-conscious adults can devise an individualized preventative program utilizing the most potent brain-protective nutrients, such as the ones previously outlined.
These supplements work via numerous mechanisms to provide natural, broad-spectrum support for optimal brain health and function. Because it is so much easier to protect the health of brain cells than it is to restore their function once damage has occurred, it makes sense for consumers to begin a preventive program as soon as possible. When it comes to protecting and preserving cognitive health, the old cliché, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" couldn’t be truer.
Mark Becker is an account manager for Vivion, a raw materials distributor, based in Vernon, California. He has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 20 years. Mark has written more than 300 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor's in journalism from Long Beach State University and did his Master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For more than 30 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 103 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement and homeopathic regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors. Follow Mark Becker on Facebook and Twitter. For more information, access www.vivioninc.com or www.EnergyatLast.com.