Your daily coffeeshop stop might have this health benefit. A new study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience suggests that drinking coffee might reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, USA TODAY reports. And the darker the roast, the better, because the researchers found that it’s not necessarily the caffeine that keeps your brain healthy. The researchers think it’s actually the phenylindanes — which are found in higher quantities in darker roast coffees — that are the key to a healthy brain. That’s because phenylindanes are known to prevent two protein fragments common to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, says MindBodyGreen.
“Coffee consumption does seem to have some correlation to a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,” Donald Weaver, co-director of the Krembil Brain Institute and one of the study’s authors, said in a press release about the study. “But we wanted to investigate why that is — which compounds are involved and how they may impact age-related cognitive decline.”
Phenylindanes are the only compound investigated in the study that keep the two protein fragments common to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s from clumping, according to the press release about the study. Roasting coffee beans leads to a higher yield of phenylindanes, so dark roast coffee appears to have a greater protective effect.
“It’s the first time anybody’s investigated how phenylindanes interact with the proteins that are responsible for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” Ross Mancini, another author of the study, was quoted as saying in the press release. “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.”
But this isn’t the first study to test the effects of coffee and caffeine on neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. In January 2018, a study was published in the journal Neurology that found decaffeinated coffee offered no protective benefits to Parkinson’s patients, findings that are in opposition to this new study. The researchers concluded that it was the caffeine, not any compounds found within coffee, that offered pharmacological benefits, according to the study, while the new research found the opposite.
Americans consumed an estimated 3.4 billion pounds of coffee last year, according to Harvard Health, and overall studies show drinking coffee in moderation is basically good for you, whether you’re drinking regular or decaf. Earlier this year, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that coffee drinkers actually live longer than non-coffee drinkers, even if they drink a lot of it. Although the caffeine jolt is nice if that’s your thing, coffee has other components that can lower your risk of liver and colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and gout, says Harvard Health.
As for this latest study on coffee’s power to protect your brain, the researchers said that they need to do more research before they can truly tap into the therapeutic benefits.
“What this study does is take the epidemiological evidence and try to refine it and to demonstrate that there are indeed components within coffee that are beneficial to warding off cognitive decline,” Weaver was quoted as saying. “It’s interesting but are we suggesting that coffee is a cure? Absolutely not.”