A recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry shows that in preliminary in vitro (read: not performed on humans) research, espresso compounds helped protect against Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegeneration5.
The aggregation of tau protein in the brain is one mechanism that is suspected to contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s. Tau protein isn’t inherently bad—everyone has it, and it actually helps stabilize structures in the brain. But when tau proteins begin clumping, that’s what researchers believe causes neurodegeneration to begin.
For this study, researchers looked at how medium-roast ground coffee affected the behavior of tau protein in a cell model.
Researchers pulled espresso shots (a blend of Arabica coffee from South America and Robusta coffee from Africa and Southwest Asia), taking note of their chemical makeup along the way. Then, they incubated these isolated molecules alongside tau protein for up to 40 hours.
As the concentration of the compounds in the espresso shot increased, the shorter chains of tau protein did not form larger sheets (which would be indicative of Alzheimer’s). These shorter chains did not aggregate or act as “seeds,” as researchers describe it, for further aggregation.
The greatest result happened when researchers used the full espresso extract versus the brew’s isolated compounds. This means that espresso as a whole was more beneficial compared to the drink’s isolated caffeine or other compounds.