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An espresso for brain health

July 29, 2023
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An espresso for brain health

An espresso, please! This is the phrase with which many days begin, which surrounds business meetings or meetings with friends and which keeps you company in the afternoons when your eyes don't seem to want to stay open. But espresso could become much more than a way to recharge your batteries thanks to the caffeine it contains. In fact, espresso could become an additional ally against neurodegeneration, including Alzheimer's. This is what emerges from a very recent scientific research that appeared a few days ago in the ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry thanks to the work of an Italian team from the University of Verona (Tira et al, ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, July 2023).

The coffee ritual is also a lot of health

Until a few years ago, drinking coffee was not seen as a healthy moment. Instead, in recent times and thanks to numerous scientific studies on the subject, coffee has gone from being a voluptuary drink to representing a precious ally for health. In fact, drinking coffee in moderation can help fight type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, some types of cellular degeneration and depression. Not only that, coffee contains more than 1000 compounds that are able to counteract the damage of free radicals even in the brain, support memory and prevent neurotoxicity. Hence the idea of trying to demonstrate a possible protective action of coffee, and in particular of espresso, at the level of the brain.

How espresso reduces the risk of neurodegeneration

Scientists have studied the composition of espresso through techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

Then, the researchers isolated compounds from the espresso that they believed could be considered interesting candidates for a possible neuroprotective action, in particular caffeine, trigonelline, genistein and theobromine. These substances and espresso extracts were then placed in contact with tau proteins for 40 hours. Tau proteins are proteins that, in a healthy brain, help stabilize brain structure. In some circumstances, however, these proteins can form aggregates that are neurotoxic, thus paving the way for degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. Well, what has emerged is that caffeine, genistein and coffee extracts have been able to inhibit the formation of tau protein aggregates, or in any case to reduce their size. Even if the size of the tau protein aggregates is reduced, this is a noteworthy result since small aggregates are not toxic to neurons, plus they do not act as a magnet for other tau proteins and for the formation of larger and more harmful aggregates.

Conclusions

The research is just beginning and a lot of work will have to be done, but in the meantime the results are really important and promising, capable of paving the way for future treatments to protect the brain and cognitive functionality. While waiting for science to take its course, we now know that an espresso is good for health, it not only protects the heart and mood but also the brain, helping us to prevent neurotoxic protein aggregates right now. The important thing, however, is also not to overload our coffee with sugar or other sweeteners, which could limit its beneficial effects.

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